Rally de España: Day 1
Ogier and Rovanperä in TOYOTA GAZOO Racing one-two
Sébastien Ogier and Kalle Rovanperä won seven out of eight stages between them to ensure a one-two for the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team at the end of a close-fought first day at Rally de España.
The fast and smooth asphalt stages of Catalunya were made more complicated by mixed weather conditions during the day, with rain not only dampening the road surface but also causing more dirt to be dragged onto it. Crews also faced two brand-new stages to begin a loop of four tests that was run twice either side of mid-day service.
Fresh from being crowned world champion on the previous round in New Zealand, Rovanperä set the early pace with the fastest times in the first two stages. Running seventh on the road meant Ogier encountered dirtier roads than his main rivals, but he won the day’s longest test – the 22.64 kilometres of Les Garrigues Altes – to leap from third overall into the lead.
Trailing Thierry Neuville by half a second arriving back into Salou for service, Ogier reclaimed the advantage by winning SS5, which was followed by two more Rovanperä stage wins as the Finn climbed back up into second. Ogier rounded out his first day’s rallying on asphalt since January with a third stage win of his own to head his team-mate by 4.8 seconds overnight.
Elfyn Evans completed a top five covered by only 10.9s at lunchtime, but ended the penultimate stage of the day with a flat front-left tyre, losing more than half a minute and dropping one place to sixth overall.
Takamoto Katsuta suffered a similar issue in the same stage in his TGR WRT Next Generation entry as he improved his pace during the day, ending it in eighth position overall.
Kaj Lindström (Sporting Director)
“It’s always a good day when you can finish it first and second overall. It was very tricky on the stages with difficult conditions, but we had a good strong performance from our cars and drivers. It’s nice to see Seb up there leading the fight, and we can also see that Kalle is still hungry to win even after securing his championship, and both of them did a very good job the whole day. Elfyn and Taka on the other hand were very unfortunate in SS7 – we know that this risk is always there and they were the unlucky ones today. There’s still a long way to go but we’re very happy after the first day and we will try to continue in the same way tomorrow.”
Sébastien Ogier (Driver car 1)
“It’s been a good day. We had fun in the car, I really enjoyed driving the GR YARIS today. I was not really sure this would be possible today starting seventh on the road with the amount of cutting in the stages. But the feeling was good and we were able to push most of the time even though the conditions were a bit challenging and changing all the time. It’s nice to be in the lead tonight and have two Toyotas at the front – it’s been a great day for the team today – but the gap behind us is not so big so we will have to keep pushing tomorrow.”
Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)
“For us it’s not been the best day overall. It started OK this morning in difficult mixed conditions, with differing levels of grip through the stage, but I wasn’t fully at one with everything and was a bit hesitant in places. In the afternoon we seemed to be struggling a bit more. At some points the feeling was OK in the car but then we had the puncture in SS7 and lost quite a lot more time. It does give us an opportunity to look at changing a few things tonight and try to find a better feeling for tomorrow.”
Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)
“I can be quite happy with what we did today. The morning was quite nice with two new and fast stages where we could do good times. Then the longest stage was tricky with a lot of grip changes and we a lost a bit too much time there. The afternoon was a bit more consistent and I had a better feeling with the hard tyres on the car. It’s nice to be in this battle but the cars behind are still close, so tomorrow we will need to continue going as fast as possible and see what we can do.”
End of day one (Friday):
1 Sébastien Ogier/Benjamin Veillas (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) 1h06m07.9s
2 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +4.8s
3 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +12.5s
4 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +20.0s
5 Dani Sordo/Cándido Carrera (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +50.9s
6 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +1m01.2s
7 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +1m03.7s
8 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +1m28.6s
9 Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +1m31.3s
10 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +1m38.8s
(Results as of 19:00 on Friday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)
Saturday’s route is almost identical to previous years, with a trio of familiar tests to the north-east to be run twice followed by a stage on the Salou seafront to round out the day. The third stage of the loop, El Montmell, is the longest of the rally at 24.18 kilometres.
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