Neuville tops
Spain standings

Thierry Neuville led RallyRACC - Rally de España by just a tenth of a second after the opening two special stages of Friday’s first leg.

Stage info: SS2 / SS3

Gandesa 1, 7.00km
The road from Gandesa to Bot is a repeat of last year’s stage. After 700m on asphalt, it’s fast and smooth gravel for the rest of the way on mid-to-wide undulating roads. Twisty throughout, it requires hard braking and a good balance with the car.

Pesells 1, 26.59km 
A difficult gravel test used in 2012 and 2013, Pesells is covered with a thin layer of gravel that will clean. After a slow opening, it becomes increasingly faster before a twisty final 4km. There are several short asphalt sections with barriers lining the most hazardous bends.

The Hyundai i20 pilot was third quickest in both Gandesa and Pesells to head Sébastien Ogier’s Volkswagen Polo R. Kiwi Hayden Paddon was 2.2sec further back in third in another i20 after winning SS3.

Road cleaning and hanging dust were the big talking points, first on the road Ogier suffering by sweeping loose gravel but benefiting from a clean run as those behind were hampered by poor visibility through the second half of Pesells.

Kris Meeke was fastest through Gandesa but a double puncture in Pesells forced him to retire in the following liaison section. He changed the rear right tyre in the stage, but with only one spare onboard his Citroen DS3, a deflated front right (pictured below) spelled the end.

Team-mate Mads Østberg, second fastest in Gandesa, was held up by Meeke’s problems and dropped several seconds before passing the Briton. “I got all the way up to him and that shouldn’t happen,” said the Norwegian as he hit his steering wheel in frustration.

Østberg dropped to sixth, behind fourth-placed Andreas Mikkelsen and Jari-Matti Latvala. Overnight leader Mikkelsen pushed his Polo R into service this morning with little fuel left in the tank while team-mate Latvala was flustered after hitting a rock and spinning in Gandesa.

Elfyn Evans dropped time in his Ford Fiesta RS after going off the road briefly in Pesells while Robert Kubica admitted to a close escape in SS2.

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