Saturday 24 October 2015

Rally - Spain, Day 1

The first day of Rally Catalunya was all about tyres. The fifth and ninth stage was the notorious 35km Terra Alta which meant that crews had to manage their tyres over the shorter preceding tests to ensure they had some tread and grip left for the final run on each loop. Ott Tanak was third in the Fiesta and Dani Sordo fourth in the Hyundai.

Top DS3 was the Mads Ostberg car in fifth place which might have been higher had it not been for a slow puncture while Kris Meeke ended the day in eighth place. As for Elfyn Evans, he rounded off the top ten after another hard day learning his craft at this level.

At the overnight halt, Mads Østberg said: “I’m very pleased with our performance today! It really was a great day. Obviously, the puncture on the longest stage lost us time, but these things happen. This afternoon, we managed to be on the pace again. The nature of the rally is now going to change. It will be a totally different challenge on tarmac and I want to keep fighting at the front.”

Kris Meeke explained: “I couldn’t call upon my knowledge of these stages, because I made a mistake last year. Without that experience, the roads are genuinely difficult and have lots of tricky sections. I’m fairly happy with my pace on the second runs. I hope I can find the right rhythm on tarmac and climb a few places. That’s the aim for tomorrow: move up the standings.”

Showing a marked improvement from the previous gravel outing in Australia, Elfyn Evans admitted to being overly cautious through the second pass, losing out to Meeke and Neuville: "It's fair to say that this wasn't the result we wanted at the end of the day,” said Elfyn, “but I think our performance was actually better than the result suggests – especially over the morning loop when we were able to keep both Kris [Meeke] and Thierry [Neuville] behind us. The gaps aren't too big and, if we can continue the progress we've already shown on Tarmac, a strong result is still within our grasp.” 

"Of course it would have been nice to have been a little higher up the leader board and to have shown a little more progress over the afternoon; but I just lacked the edge and didn't push hard enough or take enough risks. Kris and Thierry have eked out a little advantage now, but I'm certainly not going to make it an easy day for them on Saturday."

Malcolm Wilson commented: "We've seen one of our best performances of the year today. Ott [Tänak] has challenged for the lead – just as Elfyn [Evans] did in Corsica – and the Ford Fiesta RS WRC secured four stage wins thanks to Ott and Robert [Kubica] which is more than any other manufacturer.”

"It's great to see Ott back on form after the difficulties he faced in Corsica. It shows a lot when a driver is able to bounce back so strongly and that is exactly what he has done today. The real test comes on Saturday when the event turns to Tarmac, but the roads in Spain are fast and flowing which should suit him a lot better.”

"It was a difficult day for Elfyn and I know that he didn't want to end the day in tenth position. But in reality, the position doesn't reflect the improvement he has made since last time out on gravel – especially over the morning loop." 

At the overnight halt, the M-Sport team demonstrated what has to be done to convert cars from Gravel to Tarmac specification. Inside an hour and a quarter they changed the front and rear suspension and geometry, front and rear sub-frames, gearbox, rear differential, steering rack and brakes as well as reducing the underbody protection and adjusting the ballast, on two cars! Even Kwik-Fit couldn’t manage to dance to that tune! 

Leaderboard after Day 1:

1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 1:24:58.4 
2. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +4.0
3. Ott Tanak / Raigo Molder (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +11.3
4. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC) +26.9
5. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (DS 3 WRC) +29.7
6. Andreas Mikkelsen / Ola Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +37.4
7. Hayden Paddon / John Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +38.3
8. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (DS 3 WRC) +59.4
9. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:03.8
10. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:09.2

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