FIA World Rally Championship title contender Ott Tanak took a crucial early lead of Rally Spain and carries an 11.7-second advantage into the repeated afternoon stages of this mixed surface event. The Estonian heads Elfyn Evans with local hero Dani Sordo third in the lead Hyundai as both Tanak’s championship rivals slipped down the leaderboard.
The penultimate round of the series got underway Thursday night with a street stage in the heart of Barcelona. Sebastien Ogier took the win on this opening paved stage but today the crews headed west of the Salou base for the longest day of the event taking in two loops of three stages, largely contested on gravel.
Tanak was on the pace from the outset and a blisteringly quick time in the first shortest stage of the day brought the Estonian to within one-tenth of a second of Ogier. When the Frenchman then briefly ran into a field on the following stage, Tanak was able to overhaul his title rival and then extend his advantage over the following two stages.
Evans is having a great run in the Fiesta WRC and has climbed from fifth last night to second during the morning’s three stages. The Welshman is happy with his pace and the performance of the car and heads Sordo by 7.5 seconds, the Spaniard struggling with rear-end grip on the i20 Coupe WRC.
Behind the leading trio, a stage win for Andreas Mikkelsen saw the Norwegian climb the leaderboard, despite suffering with a lack of grip in some stages. He is marginally ahead of Ogier, who admitted to not being entirely sharp in the day’s opener.
Nine-time World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb, making his third and final appearance with Citroen this season, is just 3.1 seconds behind the reigning champion. He was a little cautious and lacking confidence in the tricky and slippery conditions, having not competed in the WRC since the Tour de Corse in April, yet is less than 30 seconds adrift of the regular contenders.
Craig Breen was happy with his pace but lost 10-15 seconds with a spin in the last of the morning’s loop of stages. He is ahead of eighth-placed Thierry Neuville, the Belgian running first on the road and suffering the road cleaning effect the most. He also had an overshoot, dropping him additional time.
Esapekka Lappi went off twice in the first stage and had to run with a brake problem most of the morning; the Finn is ninth ahead of teammate Jari-Matti Latvala, who had looked set to take the lead from Tanak until losing a chunk of time with a puncture. He dropped from second to 10th as a consequence.
The FIA WRC 2 Championship is headed by Eric Camilli who is piloting the all-new Volkswagen Polo GTi R5. The Frenchman won one of the three stages, his teammate and former World Rally champion Petter Solberg also showing the pace of the new car by taking another stage victory and trailing in second by only 5.9 seconds. Third in the category is provisional category champion Jan Kopecky.
Taisko Lario tops the FIA WRC 3 Championship convincingly, the Finn ahead of Enrico Brazolli and Louise Cook.
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