Spain, SS8-9-10: Sordo grabs Spain lead
Wheel change heartbreak for Tänak
Dani Sordo led RallyRACC Catalunya - Rally de España after a dramatic Saturday morning in which leader Ott Tänak’s hopes vanished when he stopped to change a wheel.
Sordo headed Jari-Matti Latvala by 0.3sec after a rain-soaked morning on asphalt roads. But a devastated Tänak could only reflect on the incident which cost 1min 45sec, relegated him to ninth and may have dealt a fatal blow to his WRC title bid.
The Estonian stopped just before the midpoint of El Montmell, the last speed test of a shortened morning, to replace his Toyota Yaris’ front left wheel. “Just a puncture. I don’t know exactly. There was a bump, nothing special, but maybe…..” he said.
Overnight rain made conditions tricky and Toyota duo Tänak and Latvala’s gamble to fit Michelin’s rain tyre paid dividends.
After the cancellation of the opening Savallà test (SS8) for safety reasons due to spectators in unsafe roadside positions, Tänak was fastest from Latvala in Querol to stretch his lead over Sordo to almost 33sec.
Latvala won El Montmell to sit on Sordo’s coat tails after restarting in fifth following his own puncture yesterday.
“I’m very happy with how things have gone this morning. The wet tyre was working pretty well. Towards the end I thought they were overheating because the grip was not there, but I think it was coming from the surface,” said the fired-up Finn.
After finishing third in Querol, Sordo was fifth in El Montmell. The Hyundai i20 driver slowed towards the finish after fearing he had a puncture, a concern that proved unfounded.
Elfyn Evans was third in a Ford Fiesta, heading a cluster of three drivers covered by only 4.5sec. The Welshman trailed Sordo by 8.3sec but had 2.5sec in hand over Sébastien Loeb, with Sébastien Ogier a further 2.0sec adrift.
Loeb struggled with driving in wet asphalt for the first time in six years while Ogier regretted his choice of soft tyres.
“The Toyotas were much faster in the wet. I never had the chance in my career to try this tyre so it’s a bit of a lottery to choose them. But it was the choice and we were wrong,” he said.
Championship leader Thierry Neuville climbed from ninth to sixth in his i20 but the Belgian was unwilling to take big risks in his quest for points.
Esapekka Lappi and Craig Breen were next up, Breen losing time after a spin damaged the rear wing and removed his Citroën C3’s bumper. Behind Tänak, on overly-cautious Andreas Mikkelsen completed the leaderboard.
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