SS1: Ogier the early leader in Spain
Querol (asphalt) 21.26km
Newly crowned World Champion Sebastien Ogier holds a three second lead of Rally de Espana after going fastest through the opening stage, run in complete darkness in the hills north east of Salou.
After a spectacular starting ceremony in front of the cathedral in Barcelona, the Frenchman was first to tackle the all-asphalt test, setting an unbeatable benchmark of 11m 23.6s in his Volkswagen Polo R.
“That was okay, but it’s not easy to start in the dark,” said Ogier. “I haven’t got the confidence to push hard yet, it’ll take me a bit to adapt to the set-up, but okay, no mistakes.”
Dani Sordo was Ogier’s closest challenger, the Citroen DS3 driver completing three seconds slower. “I think we lost two seconds near the start but after that the splits showed we were okay. The car set-up felt good, and the tyres worked really well,” he said.
Third fastest was Ogier’s Volkswagen team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala, who reported a frightening incident mid stage. “We had stones thrown at our windscreen,” he explained. “It’s really dangerous. Whoever did it needs to remember that there are people in these cars.”
Thierry Neuville was fourth fastest in his Ford Fiesta RS, but arrived at the finish control shaking his head. “That was terrible,” he said. “I had no rhythm, the car was understeering and I was surprised to see the road was a little damp in places. When I saw one of the damp sections I panicked. I didn’t enjoy that. We can do better...”
Citroen’s Mikko Hirvonen rounded off the top five times, the Finn completing the stage 6.4sec slower than Ogier.
New Zealander Hayden Paddon got his World Rally Car debut off to a good start by going eighth-fastest in his Ford Fiesta RS. “It’s our first stage in the car so it was hard to predict the speed – which meant we were struggling with the braking points,” he said. “We had some understeer too, but okay, we’re easing our way in, so nothing too spectacular yet.”
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