A class of their own: First place for Ogier/Ingrassia after first third of the rallyThick dust defied: Latvala/Anttila closest followers
In fourth right in the middle of the three-way battle for second place: Mikkelsen/FløeneOne nil in the Spanish showdown for the drivers' and co-drivers' world championship: Leaders of the standings Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) took the lead on the first day of the Rally Spain. For the following drivers, the clouds of dust on the windless special stages counterbalanced the first driver's usual disadvantage of having to clear the gravel stages of loose gravel. Ogier/Ingrassia's Volkswagen team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) were among the best to defy the limited visibility. They ended day one of the twelfth race of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) season in second place. Latvala/Anttila lost 36.6 seconds to their direct rivals in the battle for the drivers' and co-drivers' world championship on the first 141.74 of a total of 372.96 kilometres of special stages. Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (N/N) are a further seven tenths of a second behind in fourth place – just 0.1 seconds behind Mads Østberg (Citroën).
The Ogier/Latvala battle has attracted the increased attention of the fans and press at the Rally Spain: If Ogier finishes the rally ahead of Latvala, he will have secured the world championship before the end of the season. If Latvala finishes ahead of Ogier, the decision will be postponed until the WRC finale in Great Britain.
On Friday evening the World Rally Cars will be modified for asphalt conditions in the Salou service park. In less than an hour and 15 minutes, the Volkswagen mechanics transform the three Polo R WRC into a completely different type of rally car. As of Saturday morning it's time for the asphalt stages around Salou. The Rally Spain is the only WRC race on the calendar that is held on both gravel and asphalt.
Quotes from day 01 of the Rally Spain
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1“That was the ideal start to the Rally Spain. We couldn't have done anything any better today. Big thanks to the team, the Polo R WRC also ran perfectly. From the first to the last kilometre Julien and I gave it our all and had a flawless day. The asphalt section of the Terra Alta stage went particularly well – that's where we got the biggest lead over our rivals. However, we still have a fair few kilometres to go, the tyres in particular might play an important role on Saturday.”
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2“My aim for today was to drive for the lead and make up as much time as possible on Sébastien Ogier. Unfortunately I didn't manage that. I might be in second place, but I was lacking the right speed all day. Congrats to Sébastien and Julien, their speed today was really impressive. It's going to be very difficult to keep the world championship open now, but we're not going to slow down and we'll keep at it until the end. I hope that things will be better on asphalt as of tomorrow.”
Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9“Particularly early on this morning the conditions were anything but ideal. Hardly any wind, but loads of dust – at times it was like driving into a wall of dust. We could see so little that in some places we didn't know if we were driving in the middle, on the right, or on the left of the road. It would have been very easy to make a mistake there. But we did the best we could. We can be happy with that. The asphalt section starts tomorrow and the Rally Spain is far from over.”
Jost Capito, director of Volkswagen Motorsport“All of our drivers did a great job today. First, second and fourth place is a fantastic result when you think that it's normally a great disadvantage to be the first on the gravel stages. The hanging clouds of dust on the special stages counterbalanced this disadvantage for Sébastien Ogier this time around. The fact that he is leading by more than half a minute doesn't mean that the title has already been decided. There are still two days on asphalt and more than 200 kilometres to be driven – anything can happen. Recently Sébastien and Jari-Matti Latvala were in a league of their own on asphalt. It will be exciting to keep watching this battle. Even Andreas Mikkelsen is still in with a chance in the battle for the top 3 positions.”