WRC Spain: Sordo leads first morning, Ogier's title hopes on brink

Dani Sordo leads Thierry Neuville in a Hyundai 1-2 on the first morning of Rally Spain, as defending World Rally champion Sebastien Ogier's 2019 title hopes took a battering

WRC Spain: Sordo leads first morning, Ogier's title hopes on brink

Ogier made the best possible start by winning the opening Gandesa stage, pulling a slender 0.7-second advantage over Sordo and a further 0.3s over Neuville.

But it all went wrong for the Citroen driver at the very start of the following Horta-Bot test, as a hydraulic problem on his C3 caused his paddle-shift and power steering to fail "straight away".

As a result, he haemorrhaged 42.7s to championship favourite Ott Tanak on stage two and then gave up a further 2m47.6s on the 24 miles of La Fatarella-Vilalba despite making attempted repairs between the two tests.

Ogier is still in the rally but is 3m36s off the lead, saying there is "not so much I can do".

Neuville, whose own championship aspirations are looking bleak as he currently has a 41-point deficit to Tanak, took the lead from Ogier by winning stage two, only to lose it to Sordo on the following test.

Sordo said he picked up a rear puncture "5km from the end" of La Fatarella-Vilalba, but still beat Neuville by 1.4s to lead the rally by a second heading into the opening afternoon.

After Ogier's issues, Tanak is now perfectly positioned to take his first WRC title this weekend.

He remains in the battle for the rally win despite being slower than Neuville and Sordo across all three stages so far, and sits 6.5s behind the two Hyundai cars in third overall.

Toyota's Kris Meeke was on the periphery of the podium positions but slipped back slightly on La Faterella-Vilalba.

M-Sport's Elfyn Evans said he suffered a "short half-spin" on the Horta-Bot run, but a strong time on stage three put him 0.3s ahead of Meeke and into fourth.

Nine-time World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb returned for his first event since Rally Portugal in June and opted for an adverse tyre choice on Friday morning.

Loeb selected five hard compound tyres for his Hyundai, with the majority of his rivals going with three hards and two mediums.

Initially, the gamble looked as if it would not pay off as he lay ninth after the first two stages, but Loeb blasted to a stage win on the third test to climb to sixth, 0.7s behind Meeke and 0.1s up on Esapekka Lappi, who had a strong morning for Citroen.

Jari-Matti Latvala completed Friday morning's loop frustrated and downbeat in eighth.

The Toyota driver said he could not "get the confidence" with his Yaris and battled with understeer in conditions he had expected to be more predictable.

Teemu Suninen was sixth for M-Sport after stage two but dropped to ninth on the mixed-surface La Faterella-Vilalba run after admitting he pushed too hard on the asphalt section on the stage, which destroyed his rear tyres.

Takamoto Katsuta completed the top 10 on his second outing in a Toyota Yaris WRC.

Positions after stage 3

Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1 Dani Sordo, C.del Barrio Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT Hyundai 41m09.7s
2 Thierry Neuville, N.Gilsoul Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT Hyundai 1.0s
3 Ott Tanak, M.Jarveoja Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota 7.5s
4 Elfyn Evans, S.Martin M-Sport Ford WRT Ford 10.9s
5 Kris Meeke, S.Marshall Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota 11.2s
6 Sebastien Loeb, D.Elena Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT Hyundai 11.9s
7 Esapekka Lappi, J.Ferm Citroen Total WRT Citroen 12.0s
8 Jari-Matti Latvala, M.Anttila Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota 22.5s
9 Teemu Suninen, J.Lehtinen M-Sport Ford WRT Ford 27.3s
10 Takamoto Katsuta, D.Barritt Tommi Makinen Racing Toyota 1m08.2s

shares
comments
Hyundai plans two new cars in two years in R5 programme overhaul

Previous article

Hyundai plans two new cars in two years in R5 programme overhaul

Next article

WRC leader Ott Tanak to leave Toyota for Hyundai for 2020 season

WRC leader Ott Tanak to leave Toyota for Hyundai for 2020 season
Load comments
How Hyundai's broken record gave Toyota a special Sardinia 1-2 Plus

How Hyundai's broken record gave Toyota a special Sardinia 1-2

For the second WRC gravel rally in a row, a promising Friday for Hyundai turned into desolation as Toyota gratefully picked up the pieces. This time it was championship leader Sebastien Ogier who took full advantage after Ott Tanak and Dani Sordo retired to score a memorable victory, having swept the road on the first two days

WRC
Jun 7, 2021
How Hyundai's latest self-destruction handed Evans Portugal victory Plus

How Hyundai's latest self-destruction handed Evans Portugal victory

At one point Hyundai held the top three positions in Portugal, but when trouble struck the Korean marque's two leading chargers, a grateful Elfyn Evans was on hand to see off Hyundai third man Dani Sordo and become the third different winner in four rallies

WRC
May 24, 2021
Why the success of AVB's WRC debut won't be defined on the stages Plus

Why the success of AVB's WRC debut won't be defined on the stages

Three years after a Dakar Rally crash resulted in him being airlifted to hospital, Andre Villas-Boas is preparing to make his debut on his home round of the World Rally Championship later this month. His goals for the event are modest, but the same cannot be said for the charities he plans to promote where his true impact could be felt

WRC
May 13, 2021
Why there's no easy fix for Hyundai's operational Achilles Heel Plus

Why there's no easy fix for Hyundai's operational Achilles Heel

Hyundai Motorsport boss Andrea Adamo was vocal in his criticism of his team's tyre choices on Rally Croatia and declared that he "had better move my ass and solve it". Doing so will be vital to getting Hyundai's 2021 WRC title hopes back on track, but finding the root of the problem won't be the work of a moment

WRC
Apr 28, 2021
How Ogier held on after a shock bump in the road to triumph in Croatia Plus

How Ogier held on after a shock bump in the road to triumph in Croatia

Sebastien Ogier was already in an incredibly tight fight at Rally Croatia before a surprise collision with public road traffic at the start of the final day. But the defending champion held his nerve to take a narrow victory and create further World Rally Championship history

WRC
Apr 26, 2021
Why the casualty of rallying's evolution should still be cherished Plus

Why the casualty of rallying's evolution should still be cherished

The WRC's support categories are in a process of streamlining that will spell the end of a formalised 2WD world championship-level category. While its relevance to the top level has been questioned for some time, that doesn't mean it should be swept quietly under the carpet

WRC
Apr 5, 2021
Why WRC's hybrid path could leave it at a crossroads Plus

Why WRC's hybrid path could leave it at a crossroads

With all three major manufacturers committing to the World Rally Championship’s hybrid era from 2022, the future of the series is assured for now, but it could lead to trickier twists and turns further down the road

WRC
Apr 1, 2021
How Tanak froze out the competition at the Arctic Rally Plus

How Tanak froze out the competition at the Arctic Rally

Ott Tanak made up for a disastrous Monte Carlo Rally by leading all the way on the snow-kissed stages of the Arctic Rally Finland and in the process hit back at an event Toyota had been expected to dominate

WRC
Mar 1, 2021