Sébastien Ogier leads the RallyRACC Catalunya Costa Daurada
The Frenchman from Toyota went to sleep in the first position of the general classification of the 57 RallyRACC Catalunya Costa Daurada after having disputed the first eight stages. His teammate and new World Champion, Kalle Rovanperä, followed closely in second place while Ott Tänak occupies the last of the honorable positions leading the Hyundai army. Thierry Neuville, who won some specials yesterday, starts Saturday in fourth position overall while Dani Sordo, who makes his asphalt debut with the i20 N, closed the Top5 50 seconds off the lead.
The first stage, to the surprise of many, was dominated in the rain by Kalle Rovanperä, who in Els Omells – Maldà 1 debuted his status as the new WRC World Champion.
Kalle took advantage of his starting position to make the difference from the rest at the controls of his GR Yaris Rally1 and leading Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) by 1.2 seconds and Ott Tänak (Toyota) by 1.5 after completing the stage of more than 11 kilometers . As expected, the Spaniard Dani Sordo, who made his debut on asphalt with the new i20 N, was affected by his starting position, which caused him to find the roads much dirtier than his rivals, negatively affecting the grip of the car. In the first special stage of the Rally, the one from Puente San Miguel already lost 4.5 seconds.
The second section was a carbon copy of the first when Rovanperä scored a second scratch ahead of Nueville who stopped the clock two seconds after the Finn and nine tenths before Elfyn Evans (Toyota), second classified in the previous edition. Sordo, for his part, continued to lose ground with respect to the first swords and, on this occasion, he could only be seventh, a little more than ten seconds behind the World Champion, who was intractable.
The SS-3 of Les Garrigues Altes, the longest of the day with 22.64 km of rope, was the scene in which the first change of leader was seen. In this case, the eight-time World Champion, Sébastien Ogier (Toyota), took advantage of a bad stretch of his teammate Kalle Rovanperä to establish himself as the leader of the race. Neuville and Tänak dropped 3.3 and 3.5 seconds respectively while Kalle would lose more than eight.
The Riba-Roja special, the only known one of today's day, was dominated by the winner of the last two RallyRACC editions, Thierry Neuville, who also snatched the lead from Ogier in the last section of the morning loop. The Frenchman, happy with his performance on Friday morning, returned to the service park in second position separated by just half a second from a Neuville who had already given the first blow in one of his favorite rallies. Fastest on Friday's first two stages, Kalle Rovanperä, had run out of steam on the next two and saw his lead of more than three seconds vanish and drop to third more than four seconds behind the leader. A disappointed Dani Sordo had to settle for sixth position at midday and pointed to a poor choice of tires as the reason for his poor performance in the first four stages of the day. “I have never been well in these conditions”, said the Cantabrian when he arrived at the PortAventura service park, referring to the wet and dirty asphalt that he found early yesterday.
The fight for the lead continued in the afternoon loop and, after the second pass through Els Omells-Maldà, Ogier won the game over Neuville after the Belgian dropped almost four seconds in the 11km stage. The Hyundai driver blamed it on poor notes and the dirtiness of the stage while his teammate Ott Tänak, second in the stage, continued to lack confidence at the controls of the i20 N Rally1. The third fastest time went to Dani Sordo who was beginning to gain confidence in his Hyundai after a morning to forget.
In the next section, the second pass of the Serra de la Llena, he was awarded a competitive Rovanperä who stood up to Ogier -second- and Dani Sordo who returned to close the positions of honor in the section staying less than three seconds behind purposes. The other two Hyundai drivers, Neuville and Tänak, were losing ground to your competitors.
Drama in SS7
The seventh special was quite an odyssey for three of the WRC drivers. Firstly, Elfyn Evans (Toyota) reached the finish line losing about 40 seconds and without a left front tire. Shortly after, his teammate Takamoto Katsuta arrived presenting the same problem and giving in to his case for more than 40 seconds.
The last to suffer in his flesh the challenge of driving on roads full of stones that other pilots take out when cutting was Dani Sordo who suffered another puncture. The Spaniard was left there for 18 seconds and saw how his already remote chances of fighting for victory were diluted.
The last stage served Ogier to reinforce his lead over Rovanperä. In Riba-Roja 2 the Frenchman was able to be 1.2 seconds faster than his teammate, distancing himself by 4.8 seconds compared to the young Finn. A little further back, in third position and 12 seconds later, Neuville finished, losing steam as the stages went by. He was followed by Tänak at 20 from the head while the Top5 was closed by Dani Sordo at 50 seconds.
Today seven sections are disputed
Today, second of the three days of racing. The day will consist of 7 sections with a timed total of 118.75 km. Of these 7 specials, four are different and three of them are double passes: Savallà (13.93 km), Querol – Les Pobles (20.19 km) and El Montmell (24.18 km). In the urban section of Salou (2.15 km) there will be a single pass and it will be the timed one that will close the day.
The first participant will leave the PortAventura World park today at 7:15 a.m., will return to it at 12:20 p.m. for a 40' service and will return to the park again at 7:00 p.m. (after the Salou section) to attendance at the end of the day of 45'.
Once this working time is over, the cars will go into Parc Fermé until Sunday morning when they face the last stage.