M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt are in podium position following the opening gravel stages at this weekend’s RallyRACC Catalunya - Rally de España. Piloting their EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC to third place, the British pairing are locked in an intense battle at the head of the field.
A mere ten seconds down the order, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia continue the defence of their championship in similarly intense fashion. Keeping their main rival behind them, the three-way battle for the title is sure to accelerate as the action turns to asphalt.
M-Sport’s team of expert mechanics will transform each Fiesta into its sleek Tarmac guise this evening, ready for the thrilling battles to continue over the weekend; with the potential threat of rain on some of the championship’s smoothest, fastest and most circuit-like sealed-surface roads providing an added challenge.
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s great to see Elfyn having a good day as everyone knows how much bad luck he’s had to endure this season. He’s been really strong all day, but just lost a little bit on that last one which dropped him from second to third.
“It’s been a little more difficult for Sébastien as one of the first cars on the road, but he’s ahead of Thierry which is the main thing – and only 10 seconds away from the podium which is impressive with all things considered.
“The gaps are so close that it really is still anyone’s for the taking and we’ll see the rally take on a completely different character tomorrow. The change to Tarmac always makes things interesting and the possibility of some rain means that we’re in for a very interesting day.”
EVANS AND BARRITT
Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt delivered a strong drive through today’s opening gravel stages and are in a strong position ahead of the switch to asphalt. Currently holding third place, the pairing challenged for the lead and showcased their speed with a clean drive through the loose terrain.
With the potential of some challenging conditions to come throughout the weekend’s sealed-surface action, there remains all to play for and the Brits will be ones to watch as the competition unfolds.
SS1: 5th (+6.0)
SS2: 3rd (+3.0)
SS3: 3rd (+5.0)
SS4: 4th (+3.9)
SS5: 4th (+1.1)
SS6: 6th (+6.9)
SS7: 10th (+18.2)
Elfyn Evans (3rd) said:
“It’s been a pretty strong day for us but I was disappointed to have given so much time away on that last stage – I would have preferred not to have done that! But tomorrow is another day and the gaps are so close that you could almost start a new rally – it’s going to be interesting for sure.
“It looks as though the weather could be fairly challenging and coming from Wales I’m used to a bit of rain, but we don’t have so much Tarmac so let’s wait and see what happens. The gaps are really small throughout the field so nothing can be taken for granted and it’s all to play for.”
OGIER AND INGRASSIA
Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia faced a tough day as one of the first cars through the loose gravel, but did well to limit the possible time loss with a strong run to seventh place overall.
With their main championship rival behind them, the Frenchmen are also less than ten seconds adrift of the podium and can never be discounted – especially not with some potentially difficult conditions and 183.5 kilometres of pure asphalt rallying left to contest.
SS2: 6th (+4.1)
SS3: 10th (+20.6)
SS4: 6th (+5.9)
SS5: 8th (+3.9)
SS6: 9th (11.1)
SS7: 5th (+8.2)
Sébastien Ogier (7th) said:
“It’s been a tough day for us as there was a lot of cleaning out there. I tried everything I could, but it was so difficult running near the front of the field. The only one who made a difference out there today was Ott – he managed to set some incredible times!
“I gave it everything and only made one very small mistake this morning when I ran a little wide into a field and lost a couple of seconds. I wasn’t in full attack mode first thing this morning which probably cost us another couple of seconds, but other than that we have pushed very hard all day.
“The positive is that we are only 12 seconds behind second place which is definitely what we need to fight for tomorrow when it will be a completely new rally.”
SUNINEN AND MARKKULA
Teemu Suninen and Mikko Markkula may have struggled to find their rhythm when attacking the Spanish gravel for the first time in a world rally car, but the young Finn was quick to analyse his performance. Studying the data, Suninen identified areas for improvement and will be keen to reaffirm his speed when the action turns to the region’s circuit-like asphalt tomorrow.
SS1: 14th (+10.9)
SS2: 10th (+9.9)
SS3: 11th (+26.8)
SS4: 10th (+38.1)
SS5: 10th (+5.1)
SS6: 11th (+18.4)
SS7: 11th (+50.3)
Teemu Suninen (11th) said:
“It’s been a really tough day for us and we were struggling to get into the right rhythm. I was struggling to stay on the line and carry the speed through the corners. We have a good idea what the problem was, and the afternoon was a bit better, but there wasn’t so much we could do after one service. Tomorrow will be like a new rally so we will focus on setting some better times on the Tarmac.”
1. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 1:34:27.4
2. Dani Sordo / Carlos del Barrio (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +26.8
3. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +29.7
4. Sébastien Loeb / Daniel Elena (Citroen C3 WRC) +30.2
5. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +37.6
6. Andreas Mikkelsen / Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +39.1
7. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +39.4
8. Craig Breen / Scott Martin (Citroen C3 WRC) +44.7
9. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +59.7
10. Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:07.4
11. Teemu Suninen / Mikko Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2:25.1