Ogier takes charge
in dusty Spain

Sébastien Ogier was the surprise leader of RallyRACC - Rally de España after Friday morning’s dusty opening loop of gravel special stages.

Stage info: SS4

Terra Alta 1, 35.68km
The only proper mixed test contains five surface changes and 6km of twisty, undulating asphalt in the middle which will be tough on tyres and brakes. Following a fast start overlooking the village of Vilalba des Arcs, it winds through a gorge lined by rock faces. After the asphalt, the road narrows with some tricky dips.

Ogier, bidding to secure back-to-back world titles, blasted through Terra Alta 8.5sec quicker than Thierry Neuville to displace the Belgian from top spot and return to service in Salou with an 8.4sec advantage in his Volkswagen Polo R.

Hanging dust hindered everyone behind first on the road Ogier, who took advantage of a clear run, despite sweeping slippery gravel from the road.

“I’m a bit surprised to be in the lead,” he told WRC Live. “It was the plan to push as hard as we could and I couldn’t do more. I pushed from first to last and I know I have to continue the same way this afternoon if I want to stay in the same position.”

Neuville was frustrated by the visibility. “I hope one day to have Ogier’s luck! Behind him the dust makes it frustrating. I’ll keep pushing but I couldn’t do any more than this. I had to slow down a couple of times, I didn’t know if I was on the stage or not,” he said.

Hayden Paddon - dropped from third

Mads Østberg climbed to third with third fastest time in his Citroen DS3, despite a spin, and fourth quickest for Mikko Hirvonen promoted the Finn to fourth in his Ford Fiesta RS. Andreas Mikkelsen and Robert Kubica completed the top six.

There was bad news for Hayden Paddon and Jari-Matti Latvala. Paddon lost third place and almost six minutes after hitting a bank and spinning his Hyundai i20 at the first corner. The impact punctured two tyres and he stopped to change both.

Latvala, who must finish ahead of Ogier to keep his title hopes alive, is 24.2sec behind him in seventh. “The car isn’t good to drive and I’m really struggling. The set-up isn’t working like I thought it would and I have no idea why,” said the Finn.

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