Sordo storms at Rally Spain
Dani Sordo has grabbed the lead at a rain soaked Rally Spain after a tremendous drive in treacherous conditions.
The Hyundai driver is eyeing the first victory by a Spaniard in their home event since Carlos Sainz took his Subaru to what was at the time a controversial win I 1995. On that event the late Colin McRae defied team orders and attacked on the final day, before the David Richards-led team management pulled rank and made the Scottish legend book-in at the final time control.
No such issues for Sordo on the second leg of this year’s event, torrential rain turned the gravel roads into a mudbath.
Starting in the middle of the leading pack, Sordo had an outstanding afternoon to take a 17.0sec lead over Sebastien Ogier.
On the verge of sealing his fourth-straight championship, Ogier split the morning stages with Thierry Neuville (Hyundai). Sordo then revelled on the repeated stages in the afternoon climbing from fourth to first.
“This is a dream for me,” said Sordo.
“I have to say thanks to the team for a great job with the car. Tomorrow we need to continue and see what we can do. Two long days to go, but today was unbelievable.”
Being first car on the road, Ogier endured the worst of the slimy roads and with the championship the priority, eased his pace in the tricky conditions in his Volkswagen.
VW Team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen completed the podium places, 18.1sec behind Ogier. The Norwegian overcame brake problems late in the day and twice slowed on stages when mistakenly thinking he had a puncture.
Hyundai duo Neuville and Hayden Paddon were split by just 1.2sec in fourth and fifth. Neuville led after SS2 and was second when he spun on the fifth stage, clipping a tree, removing the front bodywork and leaving his i20’s radiator exposed to the elements.
Paddon’s anti-lag system failed to work all day and the New Zealander was surprised not to lose more time. It’s a true Tasman effort for Paddon this weekend with Australian leading rally crew Brendan Reeves and Rhianon Gelsomino on-hand as the gravel note crew. In conditions described as the most difficult of so far in 2016, their input has been even more valuable.
“A difficult day, unfortunately. We’ve tried to manage it the best we can, but with no service it means we’ve had the problem all day,” said Paddon.
“To be in P5 is probably still lucky, but it’s very frustrating because it could have been very good. The car’s been feeling good, even though the conditions have been quite tough.
“We’ll have to try and use this determination to try and claw some time back.”
Mads Ostberg was sixth after struggling with transmission problems in his Ford Fiesta RS.
Kris Meeke rolled his Citroën DS 3 in the opening stage after touching a bank. He recovered to seventh ahead of team-mate Craig Breen, who picked up a 10sec penalty after checking into a time control late when a tyre change took longer than expected.
After heading the field after the opening street stage on Thursday evening, Ott Tanak slipped to ninth after the full day of forest stages.
Eric Camilli completed the leaderboard in Ford Fiesta RS cars.
The hard luck story was Jari-Matti Latvala who revelled in the slippery conditions, winning two stages to climb to third. However, his Polo R was sidelined in the afternoon with broken suspension.
Service crews flew into action at the end of the day to switch their cars from dirt to asphalt specification. The final two days will be fought on sealed surface roads with Leg 2 seeing drivers take on eight tests, three of which are repeated, covering 139.18km.
VIDEO: Morning Stages
VIDEO: Afternoon Stages
POSITIONS: Leg 1 – Rally Spain