SS6: Sordo and Latvala tie the lead
Colldejou (asphalt) 26.48km
Dani Sordo and Jari-Matti Latvala share the lead of Rally de Espana at the midpoint of Saturday’s competition, the dueling pair tied on exactly the same time of 1hr 24:16.6s after the event’s opening six asphalt stages.
The pair were joint quickest through Saturday’s first stage, and were edging closer to overnight leader Sebastien Ogier until stage six, when a puncture for Ogier moved them both ahead, 31.4sec clear of third placed Thierry Neuville.
First to complete SS6, his Polo R’s left-hand front wheel missing a chunk of rim, Ogier joked with the waiting media about the time loss. “It’s just part of the strategy, I don’t want to open the road on Sunday,” he laughed. “The reality is just a puncture. It happened when we hit something in a cut on one of the corners. It must have been in the grass, we didn’t have it in our notes.”
Now sixth, and 46.8sec off the lead, Ogier’s puncture was a set-back but not a disaster in a day where being first comes with the disadvantage of running first on Sunday’s gravel stages.
“It’s interesting and adds another aspect to the rally,” pondered Latvala. “Now Ogier is behind us, but we don’t know how much the gravel will affect things tomorrow, so we don’t know what can happen. Can he still win? You never know… All I can do is keep pushing and see what happens.”
Sordo declared himself happy with his car and driving, and accepted that he was watching the pace of the Volkswagens very carefully. “I saw from the splits that Ogier had a problem. I’m sorry for him but it’s easy to get a puncture here. Now we’re in the same position where someone needs to be first, but nobody wants to be there...”
Asked about his afternoon strategy, Sordo said: “I don’t know. I don’t have one yet, we have to wait until almost the end of the day and see where Jari-Matti is.”
Thierry Neuville is now third, 31.4sec off the lead after a more encouraging stage in his Ford Fiesta RS. “This stage has exactly the same conditions that we had on our [pre-event] test so the car works fine. All the other stages so far we can forget about, we haven’t yet found a solution for those roads. I can’t push any more than I already am.”
Mikko Hirvonen is 9.1sec further back in fourth after a generally steady run in his Citroen DS3 WRC and a near-miss on SS3. “There were some rough sections in the corners and for sure we damaged our tyres, but luckily they held up,” he said.
Russia’s Evgeny Novikov is 5.9sec behind in fifth, after a trouble-free run in his Ford Fiesta RS. Ogier in sixth, more than a minute ahead of Mads Ostberg in seventh, the Norwegian reporting some progress in his search for a better handling set-up for his Fiesta RS.
Fiesta driver Martin Prokop is eighth, just ahead of Hayden Padden in a similar car, who had a lucky escape after glancing a rock face on SS6 and breaking a right-hand front wheel.
After a midday service in host town Salou, the action resumes at 1433hrs with the repeat of the El Priorat stage run this morning as SS5.
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