Sat 22 Oct 2022

Ogier masterclass distances rivals in Spain

A dominant drive moved Sébastien Ogier clear of the RallyRACC - Rally de España field as his Toyota Gazoo Racing squad put one hand on the manufacturers’ crown on Saturday.

The eight-time WRC champion is on course to claim his maiden victory of the FIA World Rally Championship’s hybrid era on only his fifth start aboard a Rally1-specification GR Yaris. 

Ogier was virtually untouchable and won four out of seven flowing asphalt speed tests in the Costa Daurada hills to turn a slender 4.8sec overnight lead into a 20.7sec advantage over Thierry Neuville with one day remaining of this penultimate round. 

Barring any major dramas, Ogier’s Toyota Gazoo Racing squad is almost guaranteed to seal the manufacturers’ championship title on Sunday. 

"It's been a very enjoyable day for us," said Ogier. "We had good fun in the car and the times were following. That's always what you dream for when you come to a rally. 

"Honestly, I have been happy with my season so far but of course it would be nice to clinch a win. Now we are in a good position but there is still a long way to go."

Neuville moved into the runner-up spot at the final hour - pinching the position from 2022 champion Kalle Rovanperä, who dropped a chunk of time when he selected the wrong engine map on the start line of El Montmell. At close of play just 1.4sec separated the pair. 

It was a generally frustrating day for Neuville, however, as he fought to optimise the set-up of his i20 N. Despite continuously making tweaks to the car he could not find the perfect balance between understeer and the rear-end breaking free. 

His Estonian team-mate Ott Tänak ended 15.9sec behind. Tänak’s day was relatively drama-free and he headed fifth-placed Dani Sordo - also driving an i20 N - by 36.6sec.

Sordo’s Saturday was one of two halves. The morning was filled with frustration as he repeatedly dropped time to the leading crews. Mid-leg set-up tweaks rejuvenated the Spaniard and he even grabbed a stage win late in the afternoon.

WATCH: Greensmith crashes out on Saturday morning

Elfyn Evans remained a lacklustre sixth overall, 14.4sec down on Sordo. His Toyota ran without problems but, like Sordo, something was missing for the 33-year-old and he couldn’t quite put his finger on what it was. 

Tyre management was the major talking point for Craig Breen, who held seventh overall in an M-Sport Ford Puma. The Irishman couldn’t gel with the set-up of the car which resulted in him overheating the front tyres on several occasions. He languished 1min 39.7sec back from the lead but pulled clear of Yaris hotshot Takamoto Katsuta. 

Puma duo Adrien Fourmaux and Pierre-Louis Loubet completed the leaderboard. The latter broke into the top 10 at the expense of team-mate Gus Greensmith, who retired when he collided with an armco barrier on a right-hand bend in the final stage of the morning loop. 

Sunday’s finale features two laps of Pratdip (12.15km) and Riudecanyes (15.90km). The former is extended by 2km from last year while Riudecanyes is well-known for the roundabout at Coll de la Teixeta, where drivers complete a 360° donut in front of huge hillside crowds.

The second pass of Riudecanyes forms the Wolf Power Stage, with bonus points on offer to the fastest five crews. The four stages cover 56.10km, taking the rally total to 293.77km in a route of 1330.91km.

Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM