Sebastien Ogier will take a handy lead into the final leg of Rally de Espana despite a big push from Volkswagen team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala during the second leg.
Ogier, who only needs to finish ahead of Latvala to wrap-up back-to-back championships, leads by 27.3sec despite the Finn winning four of the six special stages on the day.
After running on gravel throughout Friday, Saturday’s competition was all on tarmac with tyres becoming the big issue as road temperatures his 35°C.
A scare for Ogier on the 50km Escaladei test when his tyre delaminated could have brought a change for the lead in the event. However, the Frenchman drove on despite a massive vibration.
“I have to congratulate Jari-Matti because he did a good job,” said Ogier.
“The plan was to control from the front but there were sections I didn’t control too much because I had to drive very fast to stay with him. He was flying, but my plan was to have a 20sec lead tonight and we have more than that so it’s good.”
After being outpaced on the opening leg and a minor brake issue on Saturday Latvala was untroubled.
“I was disappointed yesterday. I wanted to fight for the win and now that seems a little too far away. I was driving too aggressively and thinking about today’s asphalt rather than the gravel,” he said.
Mikko Hirvonen was third in a Ford Fiesta RS, 1min 18.6sec off the lead, after seeing off Andreas Mikkelsen and Mads Ostberg in their fight for the final podium place. Mikkelsen spun before stopping to replace a damaged tyre while Ostberg fell back to fourth.
Dani Sordo closed to 22.1sec behind in fifth in his Hyundai i20 with team-mate Thierry Neuville recovering to sixth after yesterday’s problem. Mikkelsen slipped to seventh with Martin Prokop, New Zealand’s Hayden Paddon is in ninth.
“It’s been a good day of learning and we are moving up the leader-board,” said Paddon.
“We know where the time is and we will change more of the setup overnight to keep trying to improve. All-in-all we haven’t been too far off our team-mates Thierry and Dani who are tarmac specialists and that’s certainly encouraging.”
Robert Kubica drove all morning with only front-wheel drive in his Fiesta RS after breaking a differential as he warmed his tyres before the first stage. He later retired after ripping a front wheel from the car.
Tomorrow drivers face two loops of two stages covering 72.06km. The second pass through the Riudecanyes live TV test is the Power Stage, with bonus points awarded to the fastest three drivers.
VIDEO: Morning stages
VIDEO: Afternoon stages
POSITIONS: Leg 2 – Rally de Espana
|3||Mikko Hirvonen||M-Sport Ford||+1:18.6|
|8||Martin Prokop||Czech Ford||+7:31.0|
|10||Yuriy Protasov||M-Sport Ford||+9:50.6|