WRC Catalunya: VW's Ogier heads tight, four-driver fight for lead

World Rally Championship points leader Sebastien Ogier heads a tight battle at the top of the Rally Catalunya order after a testing Friday morning loop

WRC Catalunya: VW's Ogier heads tight, four-driver fight for lead

Triple champion Ogier did not set the pace on any of the morning's three stages, but was the most consistent of the leading drivers in wet conditions.

Ogier brought his Volkswagen Polo R WRC safely through the end of SS4, Terra Alta, to complete the morning loop with an overall time of 41m39.1 seconds.

Hyundai's Thierry Neuville is Ogier's closest rival. Neuville set the pace on SS2, the first stage of the day, but lost time to Ogier on SS4 and trails the Frenchman by 4.4s heading into the afternoon loop despite a trouble-free run.

Jari-Matti Latvala is also in the lead pack in the second Volkswagen Polo, the Finn having leapt up the order with the fastest times on SS3 and SS4 after an underwhelming start to the day.

Latvala was fastest by 3.9s from Ogier on Terra Alta and closed to within 5.7s of the lead.

Dani Sordo completed a quiet but productive morning with the third-fastest time on Terra Alta to assume fourth overall.

The Spaniard was strongest of all on Terra Alta in his Hyundai, and ended the morning just 10.2 seconds behind Ogier at the head of the order.

Andreas Mikkelsen and Hayden Paddon remain in sight of the leading pack in fifth and sixth - despite New Zealander Paddon struggling with throttle-response issues throughout the morning.

M-Sport's Mads Ostberg holds a lonely seventh in his Ford Fiesta ahead of the leading Citroen of Craig Breen, who fared best of those in the lower reaches of the top 10 in the running order.

Breen's team-mate Kris Meeke survived a roll on the opening stage and ended the morning in ninth.

The Briton was caught out on SS2 by rainfall heavier than those further ahead on the running order had been faced with and went off in his DS3 before rejoining.
"I rolled," said Meeke. "[Through] a fourth-gear corner I got turned in but in the middle there seemed to be deep ruts. I couldn't believe it.

"Now the rain is coming, the ruts are getting filled with water - it's hard to drive."

Meeke lost 40s to the leaders through that stage, but was able to continue on the morning's two further stages before the regroup despite dropping a further half-minute.

Overnight leader Ott Tanak plummeted down the order on Friday morning and completes the top 10.

The Estonian had commented on Friday night that his differential felt strange, and continued to complain about an issue - as well as a lack of grip - as he forfeited time.

Follow the afternoon running on Autosport Race Centre Live from 1:20pm UK time on Friday.

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