Ott Tanak has done everything possible to keep his fight for this year’s world title alive by claiming and then extending his lead on Rally Spain, the penultimate round of the FIA World Rally Championship. The Estonian has widened his morning advantage and now heads Dani Sordo by 26.8 seconds after the first and only day contested on gravel. Elfyn Evans slipped to third in the final stage, but is just 2.9 seconds further adrift of the Spaniard.
This afternoon crews returned to the same three stages and while Tanak continued to experience some damper overheating issues, his lead extended, now over Sordo who has been pushing hard in a close-fought battle between a number of drivers. The Spaniard had a better feeling with the i20 Coupe WRC this afternoon and is enjoying being in the thick of the fight on his home event. Evans was second going into the final stage of the day and was naturally disappointed to lose the position after a great day on the Spanish gravel stages.
Behind them, nine-time FIA World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb has charged from sixth to fourth and is just half a second behind Evans after changing some of the settings on the C3 WRC that allowed him to push harder. He has a charging Jari-Matti Latvala on his heels, too. After dropping to 10th with a puncture this morning, the Finn has regained his confidence and two stage wins have elevated him to fifth in the standings. He is 10.8 seconds adrift of second position and fighting those ahead as well as those behind.
Latvala has former teammate Andreas Mikkelsen 1.5 seconds behind, the Norwegian losing a bit of ground having taken two spare wheels and worrying he had sustained damage after hitting a rock. Sebastien Ogier is seventh, having lost time throughout the day running near the front of the field. He is only 0.3s off Mikkelsen, however.
“It was very difficult to be at the front today. The only one who really made a difference is Ott,” said Ogier. “I did a small mistake in SS3 and lost maybe 2s, and in SS2 I was not immediately in full attack mode and may have lost another 2s. Other than that I feel I did everything I could.”
Similarly, eighth-placed Breen is a handful of seconds behind and while he is 44.7 seconds adrift of the lead, he is just 18 seconds off second position, such is the tight fight behind runaway leader Tanak. After a difficult day running first on the road, championship leader Thierry Neuville overnights ninth. He hit a rock under braking and has pushed to the limit, admitting to being unable to do more today. Esapekka Lappi rounded out the top 10; he had a spin and was at a loss to know why he couldn’t push harder. Teemu Suninen, in his first outing in a world rally car in Spain, is 11th.
Volkswagen Motorsport is back in the WRC, but this time debuting its all-new Polo GTi R5 car. Eric Camilli is doing the team proud and leads the category having won one of the afternoon stages. Teenage sensation Kalle Rovanpera is now second having overhauled Camilli’s teammate and former FIA World Rally champion Petter Solberg. Rovanpera’s fine form continues, the Finn claiming two fastest times over the three stages. Peugeot driver Taisko Lario has maintained his lead over Enrico Brazolli in the FIA WRC 3 Championship.
Overnight, the teams will now swap the cars from gravel to asphalt specification during a longer than usual final service, as the event now heads onto paved roads for Saturday and Sunday.
Unofficial results after Section 4
|1||Ott Tanak / Martin Jarveoja||Toyota Yaris WRC||1hr 34min 27.4sec|
|2||Dani Sordo / Carlos del Barrio||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||1hr 34min 54.2sec|
|3||Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt||Ford Fiesta WRC||1hr 34min 57.1sec|
|4||Sebastien Loeb / Daniel Elena||Citroen C3 WRC||1hr 34min 57.6sec|
|5||Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila||Toyota Yaris WRC||1hr 35min 05.0sec|
|6||Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||1hr 35min 06.5sec|
|7||Sebastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia||Ford Fiesta WRC||1hr 35min 06.8sec|
|8||Craig Breen / Scott Martin||Citroen C3 WRC||1hr 35min 12.1sec|
|9||Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||1hr 35min 27.1sec|
|10||Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferm||Toyota Yaris WRC||1hr 35min 34.8sec|