Spain debrief: part 1
We reflect on last week’s RallyRACC Catalunya - Rally de España, which could prove decisive in the outcome of both the WRC drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles.
Stage of the Rally
Sunday morning’s first pass through Santa Marina (SS16) might not have done much to upset the established order at the top of the leaderboard, but it may prove to be one of the season’s defining moments.
When a fighting Thierry Neuville took a big cut into a right bend and his Hyundai i20 emerged with broken front right suspension, the resulting retirement left a wide open door for Sébastien Ogier to pass through and claim his fifth straight drivers’ title.
It’s not over yet, of course, but Ogier will take some stopping from here.
Surprise of the Rally
Andreas Mikkelsen has collected a variety of different coloured driving suits this year with stints at Skoda and Citroën before joining Hyundai before Spain.
He settled quickly into his new uniform and led after the opening predominantly gravel leg. Road position helped and his advantage was only 1.4sec, but the phrase ‘shock overnight leader’ was appropriate.
Driver of the Rally
Kris Meeke was supreme on Spain’s asphalt. His victory further emphasised that while Citroën still has work to do with its C3 World Rally Car on gravel, in the right hands it is the class of the field on sealed surfaces.
But we’re looking elsewhere for our top performer. It’s six years since Juho Hänninen has competed in Spain, but you wouldn’t have known it from his performance.
Two stage wins in a Toyota Yaris for the likeable Finn helped carry him to fourth, on the back of fourth in Germany and third in Finland in the previous rounds. His future is currently unclear as we await news on Toyota’s 2018 line-up, but he’s in a rich vein of form right now.
One to Forget
If ADAC Rallye Deutschland was a shocker for Hyundai Motorsport, then Spain proved even worse for the Korean manufacturer.
Neuville, Mikkelsen and Dani Sordo all posted fastest times, but when the points were counted on Sunday afternoon, there weren’t many.
The team was left rueing a potential weak link in the i20’s suspension which sidelined all three drivers, ended its manufacturers’ title bid and handed Neuville a mountain to climb in his drivers’ championship challenge.
Hyundai rues 'fragile' i20
Team acknowledges WRC machine lacks strength to be title challenger
Wilson counts on home win
British squad poised to seal manufacturers' crown
Second aids Ogier chase for first
Frenchman eyes title double in Britain