SS5/6: Sordo and Latvala share wins

Dani Sordo (pictured) and Jari-Matti Latvala shared the spoils in Friday afternoon’s opening speed tests at RallyRACC Catalunya - Rally de España – but Ott Tänak continued to pull away at the head of the leaderboard.

Stage info: SS5/6

SS5: Gandesa 2, 7.00km
Friday’s shortest test is driven in the opposite direction to last year. After an initial 700 metres of asphalt, it runs on gravel throughout, descending all the way from the start outside Gandesa to the village of Bot. It flows nicely on a solid surface, but there are several rocks lying on the inside of the early asphalt corners.

SS6: Pesells 2, 26.59km
Pesells is very fast throughout, running mostly on an excellent gravel surface but with several short stretches of asphalt to add an extra challenge. There is standing water in places and a short rough section at 10km where the road narrows and becomes more difficult. The final 4km are twistier, with a tricky hairpin immediately before the finish.

Sordo delighted the home fans by edging Latvala by half a second in the repeat pass of Gandesa. But the Finn came out on top in the longer Pesells to defeat Toyota Yaris team-mate Tänak and Craig Breen by 4.0sec.

“The car is feeling very, very good. Everything is now in balance,” explained Latvala, the trademark smile back on his face after his anger over this morning’s puncture. “I was really frustrated but it was nobody’s fault but my own.”

Sordo followed his stage win with fourth in Pesells to close the gap on second-placed Elfyn Evans to 5.1sec with one more test remaining today.

“My rhythm is a little bit better than this morning. If we want to be in the fight then we have to push,” explained the Hyundai i20 driver.

Nobody could make any ground on Tänak, whose lead widened to 14.4sec over Evans. “The beginning was nice but it looks like the dampers can’t manage. They’re overheating,” said the Estonian.

Sébastien Loeb and Breen overhauled Andreas Mikkelsen and Sébastien Ogier to claim fourth and fifth respectively. Less than four seconds covered the quartet.

Latvala’s pace carried him ahead of championship leader and road opener Thierry Neuville. The Belgian had the worst of the slippery gravel and admitted: “I pushed very hard but I can’t do the next stage like this. I will not stay on the road for sure.”

Esapekka Lappi spun his Yaris in Gandesa, the despondent Finn at the bottom of the leaderboard.

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