Rally Spain Review- Seb and Julien, 4 Times World Champions!

Coming into this rally, Seb and Julien had a hand on their fourth world title. All they had to do is finish ahead of Andreas. Well, they’ve been doing that all year, so you’d think that wouldn’t be too hard. However, this was the rally that saw Seb crash out in the last stage last year and hand the win to the young Norwegian.

This year, the challenge came from Dani Sordo and the Hyundai team. Here’s the story of how the Spaniard challenged the reigning champs.

The event started on Thursday evening with the short 2.3km blast that is Stage one. It was very wet as it rained very heavily just an hour before the stage start. It started to rain again as the stage started. Also, don’t forget that this stage was fully tarmac, but because all of the Friday stages are gravel, the cars were set up for gravel, making them very interesting to drive on this stage.

The rain continued to fall and the puddles got bigger, so the drivers that came later, were really at a disadvantage. Jari-Matti didn’t go well at all, losing 12 seconds. He was far too aggressive sliding the car around and was very surprised to be so far off.

01 Tänak 3m 47.6s

02 Bertelli +2.7s

03 Ogier (VW) +3.5s

04 Meeke +5.2s

05 Breen +5.2s

06 Neuville +5.7s

07 Mikkelsen (VW) +5.8s

08 Østberg +6.1s

09 Paddon 6.4s

10 Sordo +7.1s

11 Latvala (VW) +12.0s

Ott made a great start on his D-Mack tyred Fiesta to take a lead, the first time he’d lead a rally since he came so close to winning in Poland during the summer.

Seb was right there though in third place. He’d driven really well to be third fastest despite the worse conditions. The rally had started well for the champion-elect.

Friday morning then and it was the 12.5km stage first up. Seb was first into the stage. The rain looked like it followed them, and so the stage was wet. It was a troublesome one for Hayden in here, as he suffered a failure on his anti-lag system, so was down on power. Also with no lunch time service, he was going to have to take a look under the bonnet to try and figure out what it was.

Kris was next up and it was going well, but then he came around a fourth gear left hander and the rear slid round. Next thing he knew, the car was rolling. He had to turn the car around and this lost him over 30 seconds.

01 Neuville 7m 39.9s

02 Paddon +1.6s

03 Ogier (VW) +2.5s

04 Sordo +4.2s

05 Latvala (VW) +4.6s

06 Mikkelsen (VW) +5.6s

07 Østberg +16.2s

08 Breen +30.7s

09 Meeke +40.9s

10 Abbring +41.5s

Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN), Miikka Anttila (FIN)
Volkswagen Polo R WRC (2016)
WRC Rally Catalunya 2016
Photo: Daniel Roeseler

Stage 3 then and it was Jari-Matti who won it from Seb who duly moved into top spot. With the weather having turned so bad, instead of it being a disadvantage to be first into the stage, it became an advantage. He took the lead from Thierry.

01 Latvala (VW) 4m 12.0s

02 Ogier (VW) +1.0s

03 Neuville +1.4s

04 Paddon +2.4s

05 Mikkelsen (VW) +2.6s

06 Sordo +3.7s

07 Østberg +6.1s

08 Meeke +6.2s

09 Breen +6.5s

10 Tänak +9.2s

Stage four next, the longest of the entire rally. Terra Alta at 38km and this stage has both tarmac and gravel parts to it. Dani pushed very hard in this one, looking to move up the leaderboard. Jari-Matti was fastest though, thus winning two in a row. Hayden was really suffering with his engine not performing correctly and it must have been so frustrating for him. He would spend the midday break poking around under the bonnet trying to see what was wrong.

01 Latvala (VW) 25m 48.7s

02 Ogier (VW) +3.9s

03 Sordo +6.1s

04 Neuville +8.2s

05 Mikkelsen (VW) +10.4s

06 Paddon +17.6s

07 Østberg +22.9s

08 Breen +25.4s

09 Meeke +29.2s

10 Tänak +52.0s

Stage five was a re-run of number two. It was starting to dry up out there with the rain having stopped and the sun coming out. Thierry managed to remove his bumper and grille from the car as he tapped a couple of small trees and spun. He would lose 18 seconds…. It went even more wrong for Jari-Matti though. Coming through a right hander, which had a section of Armco running alongside and he tapped the end of it with the right front of the Polo. This not only broke his drive shaft but also the steering rack as well. A big shame. He was out for the rest of the day.

It was totally different for Dani through here though! He won the stage and took the lead in one go. A brilliant performance! Fourth into first place in one go. He was overjoyed!

2016 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 12 / RallyRACC Catalunya – Rally de Espagna 2016 / October 13 – 16, 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: Hyundai Motorsport

01 Sordo 7m 57.3s

02 Abbring +4.1s

03 Østberg +4.5s

04 Bertelli +4.6s

05 Meeke +5.2s

06 Paddon +5.2s

07 Mikkelsen (VW) +8.5s

08 Camilli +9.5s

09 Prokop +12.3s

10 Tänak +13.7s

11 Ogier (VW) +16.3s

He found himself 6.1 seconds ahead of Seb after that one. Hayden had also found some time in there to close the gap to the front.

Stage six then, and rerun of Terra Alta. Dani won this, thus opening up a 11.8 second lead over Seb. Just completely in the groove!

01 Sordo 4m 06.0s

02 Tänak +1.2s

03 Meeke +2.4s

04 Breen +3.5s

05 Ogier (VW) 5.7s

06 Mikkelsen (VW) +5.8s

07 Østberg +6.1s

08 Paddon +6.9s

09 Abrring +7.8s

10 Neuville +7.8s

Last stage of the day and It was a Kris win in here with Dani second and Seb third, but 6.9 seconds slower.

01 Meeke 24:50.1

02 Sordo +1.7

03 Ogier +6.9

04 Ostberg +15.2

05 Mikkelsen +19.2

06 Breen +27.4

07 Neuville +27.9

08 Tanak +29.4

09 Paddon +30.2

10 Camilli + 41.6

Kris really got into the groove through there, but it was Dani who’d really driven brilliantly through the day and taken the lead. What a lead as well.

D. Sordo / M. Martí (Hyundai New Generation i20 WRC) 1:18:44.4

S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +17.0

A. Mikkelsen / A. Jaeger (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +35.1

T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul (Hyundai New Generation i20 WRC) +46.3

H. Paddon / J. Kennard (Hyundai New Generation i20 WRC) +47.5

M. Østberg / O. Floene (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +54.3

K. Meeke / P. Nagle (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1:06.3

C. Breen / S. Martin (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1:44.6

O. Tanak / R. Molder (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +2:04.4

E. Camilli / B. Veillas (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +3:44.3

K. Abbring / S. Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) +4:02.8

The thoughts of the top three then.

Dani Sordo said: “It has been an unbelievable day. I am really pleased to be leading the rally, particularly in front of all these amazing Spanish fans. The New Generation i20 WRC has been fantastic to drive today, and it is thanks to the whole team that we have been able to start the rally in such a positive manner. The wet conditions have made these stages very slippery, so it has been an achievement to make it through without any problems. We haven’t really been taking any risks so far, but as we move onto asphalt for the remaining days, we need to make sure that we keep up the fight.”

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1

“The conditions were really extremely difficult for all the drivers today. It was super slippery in places – with a lot of water and mud on the roads. I pushed as hard as I could again on the afternoon’s final stage. At the moment, things are looking very good for Julien and me in the battle for victory in Spain and the world championship. Tomorrow is the start of a completely new rally. I am looking forward to the fast asphalt stages on Saturday and Sunday. It always feels a bit like being on a racetrack here in Catalonia. The asphalt is absolutely perfect the roads are generally very wide.”

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9

“Wow, what a tough day. The rain gave us some extremely slippery stages on the gravel today. You can never be quite sure what the conditions were like on the muddy surface. There was plenty of grip one minute, then all of a sudden hardly any at all. We tried to put ourselves in a good position for the next two days on asphalt, whilst taking as few risks as possible. Opening the road was not the ideal starting position today, but I think we made the best of the situation.”

The rest of the drivers

Volkswagen Motorsport

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2

“We found our rhythm very quickly today and underlined this with two wins on stages three and four. Unfortunately, our fightback then came to an abrupt end. We got a bit off the line in a left-right combination and damaged the suspension. We tried to repair it, but it was impossible to continue. That was it for today. It is bitterly disappointing, but there’s nothing we can do about it now. We will come back tomorrow and try to score as many points as possible towards the Manufacturers’ Championship.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville said: “It’s been a day of two halves. The opening stages this morning went well, despite the conditions, and we were able to take a stage win and briefly lead the rally. We were keeping the pressure on and headed into the afternoon in positive mood. Unfortunately, we got unlucky in the repeat of Caseres as we approached a slow right-hand corner, I got stuck on the inside and the car spun, hitting a tree. The engine stalled and we lost some time restarting. We were able to fix some of the damage and could continue the loop. Thankfully we minimised the time loss and will look to push more tomorrow.”

Hayden Paddon said: “We have been battling a technical issue all day which has prevented us from doing too much more. In fact, I’m surprised we’ve been able to set some of the times we have. This morning already felt like we were missing some power and we had no throttle response. I adapted my driving style, which felt a bit unnatural, but with no lunchtime service there wasn’t much else we could do. I think we could have been quite competitive, so it’s a bit of a missed opportunity. Still, we have made it through and we’re still in the hunt for a good result. Tomorrow’s another day, as they say.”

Kevin Abbring said: “It’s a disappointing end to the day with the problem but all in all it’s been a positive experience out there. The conditions have not been easy, so it’s heightened the challenge for us. We’ve never rallied on stages like these before, and certainly not on wet gravel, so it’s been a learning curve. I felt we were doing ok, particularly in the afternoon loop. Second in SS5 was a real boost to the confidence. But in the final stage we experienced a loss of power, which in turn lost us a lot of time. It’s a shame but we will come back stronger tomorrow – and I hope we will be able to enjoy a drier day.”

M-Sport WRT

Mads Østberg (6th) said:

“The stages here in Spain are fantastic and I have really enjoyed the day. Our driving and our performance have been really strong but, unfortunately, luck hasn’t been on our side.

“In the morning that was largely due to the weather but, if I’m honest, we made that back in the afternoon. We also had a small problem with the differentials – a new one – and we have no idea what it is. I’m trying to explain it to the engineers and they can see it on the data, but at this moment we can’t pin-point exactly what’s causing it. Obviously we had a full day without service so we just had to adapt and try to be faster and faster with every stage – which I think we achieved.

“We also had some really strong splits on the Tarmac section of Terra Alta which was great to see. Of course it’s with completely different tyres and set-up, but it’s still Tarmac and it’s still a section in the stage where I’ve always lost out. In the past I’ve lost more than a second per kilometre in there, but this year we were one of the fastest both times though – that makes me especially happy.”

Éric Camilli (10th) said:

“It was very difficult for us in the morning. We were competitive here last year, but in these conditions it was hard to judge the limits. You never know where you can push, where it will be slippery, where there will be grip, where there will be water… and in this car, which has so much more power, it can be very tricky. But we took the time to learn and we were able to show a big improvement this afternoon.

“We’re looking forward to tomorrow, but we’ll keep the same mind-set until the end of the season. Right now, the most important thing for me is to take the experience. We’ve already proved our pace this season, so now it’s time to manage everything else and continue learning so that we can make more progress next year.”

Abu Dhabi Citroen WRT

Kris Meeke: “Obviously, it was a bit of a frustrating start to the day for us. We knew it was going to rain, but it was torrential in the mountains! And when the dust that normally covers these roads gets wet, the surface becomes incredibly slippery… A few kilometres after the start of SS2, I was caught out by some standing water in the ruts. It put the car sideways on the road and we touched the bank and rolled. The damage was superficial and we only lost fifteen or twenty seconds with the roll! But with the conditions, I don’t think I would have been able to fight for the lead in any case. I quickly refocused on my main objective for the weekend: find a good rhythm and feel comfortable on this surface. The results in the afternoon were encouraging, even though my road position helped. Overall, it’s still a disappointing day, but we’re not out of it yet. Let’s see what we can do, maybe we can sneak a podium.”

Craig Breen: “This has been one of the most difficult days of my career. We had to deal with the worst conditions, with so much rain and mud. The first stage was particularly tough, the rainfall was at its heaviest just as we set off and there was a lot of standing water on the ground. We did our best, but I still made a minor mistake on SS5 and spun the car. Although we weren’t going very fast, we hit a tree and that damaged the radiator. We were even more cautious after that, so we made it to the end of the day without incident. I’m glad we switch to tarmac and a more traditional rally tomorrow!”

Khalid Al Qassimi: “I’ve never seen conditions like these in Catalonia. It wasn’t enjoyable to drive in such thick mud and I was even more cautious when I saw other cars stopped by the side of the road. I really backed off and didn’t take any risks at all this morning, even if the reduced power meant the car wasn’t really working properly. On the second runs, there was more grip and I was able to push a little bit more. I felt more confident as the afternoon drew on and I quite enjoyed the Terra Alta stage. Tomorrow we reset everything, it’s a completely different rally when we switch to tarmac. I hope that the weather will be kinder, both for us and for the fans!”

Day two then and with a complete switch to tarmac, the teams had made the suspension, brakes and tyre changes necessary at the end of the first day, preparing the cars for the smooth roads.

Eight stages made up Saturday’s line up and the sun was still rising when the first cars fired into Stage eight. Having restarted with a rebuilt car, Jari-Matti powered through to beat Kris in this stage by just two tenths of a second. Dani’s lead was trimmed a little by Seb, but the gap between them was still almost 17 seconds.

01 Latvala (VW) 4m 03.4s

02 Meeke +0.2s

03 Mikkelsen (VW) +0.5s

04 Ogier (VW) +1.7s

05 Sordo +1.8s

06 Neuville +2.6s

07 Paddon +4.3s

08 Tänak +5.1s

09 Østberg +5.2s

10 Abbring 6.3s

Stage nine then and could Seb close the gap some more? Well, actually it widened a little, whilst Jari-Matti took a second stage win. Kris suffered a puncture in the stage, so dropped some time, although still maintaining seventh overall.

01 Latvala (VW) 11m 05.9s

02 Sordo +0.7s

03 Ogier (VW) +1.3s

04 Mikkelsen (VW) +2.2s

05 Neuville +2.6s

06 Paddon +6.4s

07 Camilli +8.7s

08 Østberg +16.3s

09 Tänak +18.1s

10 Abbring +24.2s

Stage ten next and Seb won the stage from Dani to reduce the gap by three seconds to 14.5 with Jari-Matti just three tenths off in third.

01 Ogier (VW) 11m 12.9s

02 Sordo + 3.0s

03 Latvala +3.3s

04 Meeke +3.5s

05 Neuville +5.4s

06 Mikkelsen (VW) +7.4s

07 Paddon +8.6s

08 Camilli +14.7s

09 Tänak +23.2s

10 Østberg +24.3s

One more stage then before midday service, stage eleven and Seb flew through this one at an amazing 116kph average speed, including one section where he topped 191kph! Just incredible and with that closed the gap to Dani to just 7.7 seconds. Lots for Dani to think about.

01 Ogier (VW) 12m 27.3s

02 Sordo +6.8s

03 Latvala (VW) +9.9s

04 Neuville +10.9s

05 Meeke +12.0s

06 Mikkelsen (VW) +12.2s

07 Paddon +13.9s

08 Østberg +23.9s

09 Camilli +26.5s

10 Abbring +30.8s

After service Andreas, with the Hyundai drivers getting closer was pushing hard to keep them behind. It all went wrong in stage 12. Coming round a right hander, his Polo went wide and there was some Armco which was on the outside of the corner. The car slid onto it and it flipped the car over onto its roof and then back over. Andreas and Anders were fine, but the car wasn’t going anywhere after that.

Seb won the stage from Dani again, just 2.5 seconds quicker and reducing the lead to 5.2 seconds. Could Dani stop Seb from passing him?

01 Ogier (VW) 11m 02.0s

02 Sordo +2.5s

03 Paddon +5.9s

04 Neuville +8.4s

05 Breen +10.5s

06 Østberg +12.6s

07 Meeke +19.6s

08 Abbring +19.8s

09 Prokop +21.2s

10 Tänak +24.2s

11 Latvala +40.4s

Stage thirteen then and Seb kept coming with another stage victory over Jari-Matti and Dani third through here. It was looking very likely that Seb would be back in the lead very soon.

01 Ogier (VW) 11m 14.3s

02 Latvala (VW) +2.0s

03 Sordo +2.7s

04 Neuville +3.9s

05 Meeke +4.5s

06 Paddon +8.1s

07 Breen +11.7s

08 Østberg +18.4s

09 Abbring +23.9s

10 Tänak +25.5s

Stage fourteen then and could Dani hold Seb off? Sadly, not I’m afraid. He was 4.2 seconds slower through there and thus came out 1.7 seconds behind Seb.

01 Ogier (VW) 12m 29.3s

02 Latvala (VW) +2.2s

03 Neuville +3.9s

04 Sordo +4.2s

05 Meeke +4.9s

06 Paddon +5.5s

07 Breen +12.4s

08 Østberg +20.1s

09 Abbring +22.8s

10 Tänak +27.8s

Last stage of the day then and it was a win for Kris round the super special. Seb was fourth, but it was a shame to see Dani lose more time, ending the stage four seconds slower than Seb, meaning that he would be 5.8 seconds behind going into the last day.

01 Meeke 2m 33.0s

02 Paddon +0.1s

03 Neuville +0.2s

04 Ogier (VW) +0.3s

05 Latvala (VW) +0.7s

06 Østberg +0.9s

07 Prokop +2.5s

08 Bertelli +3.3s

09 Tänak +3.9s

10 Sordo +4.4s

So, here’s the thoughts of the top three at the end of day two.

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1

“A perfect day! I am very happy with our performance. I knew we could only make up the 17-second deficit to Dani Sordo with an absolutely flawless display. He is very quick on asphalt, and this is his home rally. We consciously took a slightly more cautious approach on this morning’s first stage, because it was still damp and slippery in places. From then on, however, Julien and I went on the attack. We obviously now have a huge chance of securing our fourth title here in Spain. That is at the back of our minds, but the points for the team in the Manufacturer’s Championship are also important. No doubt about it, we want to win tomorrow. However, I still remember well the outcome of last year’s Power Stage. We don’t plan to let that happen again this time.”

Dani Sordo said: “I was disappointed to lose the lead of the rally this afternoon, if I am honest. We knew it would be a tough challenge but when you are in the top spot, it’s natural instinct to want to protect it. The morning loop was not too bad, and we defended well but Ogier was pushing hard. We had a bit of understeer but I felt happy with my driving overall. We made a few adjustments at lunchtime service, but there wasn’t any more we could do. It’s very easy to make mistakes when pushing too hard, so we have to find a compromise. We’re not too far off in terms of the overall time, and there are still plenty of opportunities tomorrow. I’m not one to give up so we’ll see what we can do. It’s our home rally, so we want to win for all the Spanish fans.”

Thierry Neuville said: “It’s been a solid day for us and obviously it’s nice to be in the podium positions heading into the final day. The battle with Andreas this morning was poignant, not only because we are friends but also because we are involved in a close fight for second in the drivers’ classification. We were already putting some pressure on before he went off in the afternoon loop. I have been pretty pleased with my driving today. We had a bit understeer and there has been some room for improvement, but all in all we can be happy. As a team, we’re looking strong, so we need a clean Sunday to pick up these important manufacturer points.”

The rest of the drivers

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon said: “Consistency has been the word of the day for us. The team did a great job in service last night to get all the cars switched for today’s asphalt tests. We have been in or around the top-six in most stages today and we’ve been able to move up to fourth place, following Andreas’s retirement. Things feel better than they were in Corsica, although we’ve still had to work hard to adapt to the conditions and to the car. We’ve been digging deep and trying to move forward – and we’ll continue to do that through Sunday’s four stages.”

Kevin Abbring said: “It’s been a really enjoyable day. I have felt my confidence grow inside the car with each stage. The rhythm has been getting better and better. We had a good morning loop, improving the car bit by bit. It’s been a year since we were on tarmac in Corsica in a WRC car so we’ve had to reacclimatise. We wanted to gain some positions today – and circumstances have allowed us to do that. We made some good progress this afternoon, and have a few ideas for tomorrow. To be inside the top-eight is great and something we want to defend in the final stages on Sunday.”

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Kris Meeke: “This morning, I had a good rhythm but I picked up a puncture after cutting a corner. After that, I had to deal with an uneven tyre set-up. Some portions were also very dirty. This afternoon, I had a bit of a moment with a sixth-gear spin. I haven’t really managed many of the stages without any issues, but it’s up to me to eliminate these silly mistakes. Overall, it’s been a frustrating leg, but the positive is knowing that I can challenge with the best when everything is going well! That wasn’t the case a year ago, so we’ll have to take that into 2017.”

Craig Breen: “The day couldn’t have got off to a worse start, because we broke a driveshaft after two or three kilometres. After the stage, we removed both of the front driveshafts. It was a long and difficult job, so we picked up a penalty for arriving late at the time control for the next stage. After the mid-leg service, we just tried to learn the stages. It was difficult for us to commit as we were on our first high-speed pass when everyone else was on their second. It wasn’t a good day, but sometimes you need this kind of experience to appreciate the good times! On tomorrow’s final leg, we’ll be just trying to finish the rally well.”

Khalid Al Qassimi: “It’s been a pretty good day for me. I didn’t feel especially confident on the first loop, my pace notes weren’t perfect and there was a lot of dirt and stones on the road. I nonetheless managed to up the pace on the second pass, altering my driving style to use the car’s torque more rather than shifting through the gears. I’m pleased to have improved my times quite significantly. It’s not easy to come back to tarmac after a year away. The other WRC drivers compete at a very high level and they do a lot more kilometres than me on this surface. But I still love this rally!”

2016 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 12 / RallyRACC Catalunya – Rally de Espagna 2016 / October 13 – 16, 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: M-Sport/McKlein

M-Sport WRT

Mads Østberg (6th) said:

“I’m quite happy to see that our new driving style is starting to pay off. We’ve seen an increase in speed and set some decent stage times too. Of course you always try to improve in the same direction and sometimes it kicks back which makes it quite difficult to tune in, but we are trying and I think we are getting there.

“Sometimes you need to learn something new to move forward, and that is what we’re doing on Tarmac. You need to allow some time to see the results, but you also need to see the gains and I’m quite happy to see that we are moving in the right direction and that we are getting faster.”

2016 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 12 / RallyRACC Catalunya – Rally de Espagna 2016 / October 13 – 16, 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: M-Sport/McKlein

Éric Camilli (21st) said:

“Of course it’s disappointing to finish the day like this, but it hasn’t been a bad day by all means. We’ve shown better speed but more importantly we’ve also proved our adaptability. One of the stages was completely new to me this morning and normally I would lose some time there, but this time we were actually quite close to the fastest which was really good.

“Having checked the pacenotes over the first pass, we wanted to improve further on the second and close the gap even more. Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible as we had an issue with the gearbox. These things happen and I think every driver has to accept that sometimes.

“We’ll have to use the gravel gearbox tomorrow but that is just the way it is and we’ll focus on checking the notes and making sure that we’re as prepared as we possibly can be for next year.”

Top ten at the end of day two

01 Ogier (VW) 2h 35m 12.8s

02 Sordo +5.8s

03 Neuville +1m 03.9s

04 Paddon +1m 20.0s

05 Meeke +1m 57.9s

06 Østberg +2m 35.7s

07 Tänak 4m 24.7s

08 Abrring 6m 22.7s

09 Prokop 7m 13.3s

10 Bertelli 9m 17.1s

Four stages then and could Dani overhaul Seb to score a first victory for a Spaniard at home since El Matador, Carlos Saniz in 1995?

The first cars headed into the stage, number 16 and the sun had not yet come up. Lights ablaze, they turned and twisted their way through.

01 Ogier (VW) 10m 58.3s

02 Paddon +2.0s

03 Sordo +2.6s

04 Neuville +4.7s

05 Latvala (VW) +6.3s

06 Breen +8.5s

07 Tänak +18.9s

08 Østberg +22.7s

09 Camilli +23.6s

10 Abbring +24.6s

Seb had a bit more light in the stage and therefore increased his lead from 5.8 seconds to 8.4 seconds.

Sadly, Kris would retire from the event at the end of the stage, having suffered from an engine failure. A big shame after a rally that promised so much.

Stage seventeen next and it was a Jari-Matti stage win again! Just showing that if he can get just some consistency, he can definitely challenge for victories.

01 Latvala (VW) 10m 53.1s

02 Ogier (VW) +1.2s

03 Paddon +1.5s

04 Neuville +2.1s

05 Sordo +2.7s

06 Breen +3.6s

07 Camilli +9.0s

08 Østberg +9.8s

09 Tänak +16.1s

10 Abbring +16.8s

It looked like it was all over for Dani though, losing more time and with the gap to Seb increasing all the time. He’d have to find some amazing pace to move back ahead of Seb, the gap now 14.2 seconds.

Just the power stage now…. Last year Seb crashed on this, handing victory to Andreas. Would he make the same mistake?

Not a chance…. He finished the stage second fastest and won the rally from Dani.

Stage 19

01 Latvala (VW) 7m 55.8s

02 Ogier (VW) +1.6s

03 Sordo +3.2s

04 Neuville +3.6s

05 Paddon +3.6s

06 Breen +5.2s

07 Østberg +6.4s

08 Camilli +10.3s

09 Abbring +15.3s

10 Bertelli +15.4s

Overall result

01 Ogier (VW) 2h 46m 11.1s

02 Sordo +8.4s

03 Neuville +1m 08.6s

04 Paddon +1m 22.0s

05 Østberg +2m 58.4s

06 Tänak +4m 43.6s

07 Abbring +6m 47.3s

08 Prokop 7m 56.8s

09 Kopecky +8m 13.6s

10 Tidemand +8m 24.5s

He’d joined the great’s, Juha Kankunnen and Tommi Mäkinen as a four times World Rally Champion.

Julien Ingrassia (F), Sébastien Ogier (F)
Volkswagen Polo R WRC (2016)
WRC Rally Catalunya 2016
Photo: Helena El Mokni

His thoughts then at the end of the event.

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1

“I feel fantastic! The fourth world championship title for Julien and me, it is impossible to describe how this feels. It is an honour to be mentioned in the same breath as such big names as Kankkunen and Mäkinen. I would like to say a huge thank you to our team at Volkswagen. Without them, Julien and I would not be here today. They do a fantastic job all year and we have had a perfect car all season. I had great fun at the wheel of the Polo R WRC once again this weekend. The tension ahead of the closing Power Stage was obviously greater than usual, given the fact that we were within touching distance of the title, and bearing in mind the mistake we made last year. But we’ve done it. Despite the more difficult regulations, and despite the strong opposition. I am extremely proud of this title. It is now time to celebrate in style with a team and my wife – and when I get home I can show my young son Tim the trophy that daddy won. I dedicate this world championship title to him.”

Dani Sordo said: “It’s been an incredible weekend and I cannot thank the fans enough for all the support. I can honestly say we did our best today but we just couldn’t do anything to stop Sébastien. I have to extend my congratulations to him. We wanted so much to take the win for the team and the fans but he was too strong. Still, to finish in second place after such a competitive event is something to be proud of. It’s our second podium of the season and we worked really hard for it. I have been generally very happy with the feeling we’ve had in the car, both on gravel and asphalt. The team has done a fantastic job to prepare a competitive car, and it’s very encouraging that the overall result has been so positive for everyone at Hyundai Motorsport.”

Neuville said: “It’s been a good weekend. I don’t think we could have got anything more out of the car in this rally. I took things carefully this morning. We did a good job to get into the podium positions so we didn’t want to waste that effort. We were focused on the 15 championship points, so accepted that we’d have to compromise our stage times to do that. We had to take it cautiously in some sections, but I was mostly able to drive my usual rhythm. As a team, we’ve had a competitive weekend with three cars in the top-four, so we can use this momentum for the final events of the season in GB and Australia. There are a few more competitive performances to come from us this year, I’m sure!”

The rest of the drivers

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon said: “It’s been a good final day for us and a positive event for the entire team. We have continued with our learning curve and kept the pressure on. Even if we weren’t able to finish on the podium, I’m happy with what we’ve achieved over the three days. Ever since we changed some things on the car yesterday lunchtime, it’s been an improvement. I’ve enjoyed the stages today. I liked the first stage (Pratdip) but I was surprised by our pace in the second one (Duesaigües) because I’ve always struggled on that one. There’s nothing more frustrating for me than standing still so I’m pleased we’ve started to move in the right direction. Now let’s bring on the gravel!”

2016 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 12 / RallyRACC Catalunya – Rally de Espagna 2016 / October 13 – 16, 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: Hyundai Motorsport

Kevin Abbring said: “It’s brilliant to register our best ever WRC result here in Spain. It’s been a very valuable learning weekend for us, and I’d say it is “mission accomplished” as far as the result is concerned. We probably hoped to benefit more from our road position on Friday, but with the wet conditions it didn’t play into our hands. We didn’t expect to be winning stages but we’ve made important steps on this mixed surface rally, and I’m delighted with seventh place. I’d like to say thanks to the team for the opportunity and for their support to us in this event.”

Volkswagen Motorsport

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2

“Congratulations to my team-mate Sébastien Ogier on his fourth Drivers’ title. That puts him in the same league as my Finnish compatriots Tommi Mäkinen and Juha Kankkunen. That is a fantastic effort, not only from him, but from the entire Volkswagen Motorsport team. For me, the Rally Spain, as has so often been the case this year, was over far too soon. After the suspension damage on Friday, we had no chance of getting ourselves back in contention. Despite this, we did manage to win some special stages and eventually managed to contribute four points towards the Manufacturers’ Championship. Perhaps we will be able to wrap up this title at the next rally in Great Britain. That will definitely be the goal.”

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9

“Congratulations on the title and respect for this victory to our team-mates Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia. Anders and I are pleased for them. They set the benchmark again in 2016. For us personally, the Rally Spain obviously did not end as we would have hoped. After victory last year, we wanted to do well again here and certainly to extend our lead over third place in the world championship. However, that was not to be. We came into a right-hander too quickly on Saturday, drifted wide, hit the barriers and rolled. That was 100 per cent my mistake. The battle for second place in the world championship is now wide open again, and we will have to be at our very best in the remaining rallies to achieve the goal we have been aiming for since the start of the season. We will work hard to make that possible.”

M-Sport WRT

Mads Østberg (5th) said:

“It’s really satisfying to see that this new strategy is starting to pay off. There has been a lot of work over the last two rallies – and that will continue – but it’s always nice to see everything come together in a single stage.

“We experienced that on the last stage today [SS19] and I was quite happy that we managed to do it. It still wasn’t a 100 percent perfect stage, but it’s certainly getting there. I’ll have to see the report from my coach before I can say that it was very good, but it felt good and it’s almost a shame that we’re heading back to gravel now!

“But, Wales Rally GB is an event that I am definitely looking forward to. It’s a little bit earlier this year and we might see a dry event which would be fantastic! I’ve done it in the dry once before and that was really amazing. I hope it will be dry, but if it’s wet I don’t mind either! I’m looking forward to it a lot.”

Éric Camilli (19th) said:

“It was a shame about the technical issues we had but these things happen and it wasn’t a bad weekend by all means. We’ve been able to gain a lot of new experiences and really improve our driving on Tarmac.

“We took a lot of pleasure from these stages – the most that we have taken on Tarmac all year – and we will remember it with smiles on our faces. It’s so important to have this feeling ahead of next year. Of course the cars will be different, and maybe the pacenotes too, but we have the experience and we can build on that.”

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Craig Breen: “It has been a positive final day. This morning, it was still pitch black when we set off on SS16. But we set a good time compared with the guys who had the same visibility conditions as we did. We kept up the good form on the next few stages and we learned a lot, especially by trying out a few different set-ups. I’m really pleased to finish in the top 10 and score one point. I’m now really looking forward to competing at Wales Rally GB!”

Khalid Al Qassimi: “I’m happy to have made it to the end of this rally without having any problems. The conditions on the first day didn’t help me but we managed to keep out of trouble. Overall, the team result is a bit disappointing, but everything that happened to Kris and Craig will help us to learn and be better in the future. My WRC season is over now and I’m proud of what we have accomplished with Abu Dhabi Total WRT.”

Kris Meeke: “There’s not much to say about today, really. It just rounds off a frustrating weekend. It’s very rare for us to have to retire with an electrical issue but that’s just part and parcel of racing. But we have look at the positives and move forward. A little bit like in Corsica, I have finished this rally feeling better than I did at the end of 2015. And that’s the most important thing, because we’re already focused on 2017!”

D-Mack WRT

Ott Tänak said: “It was a very tricky event, especially with the rain on Friday, and it was good to lead it briefly at the start. I enjoyed the Tarmac roads, the stages are really nice and flowing here and it’s a good feeling when things are going well. Sixth place means solid points again and we’ve picked up more important experience for next season.”

Drivers’ standings

1. Sébastien Ogier, 222 points

2. Andreas Mikkelsen, 127

3. Thierry Neuville, 127

4. Hayden Paddon, 114

5. Dani Sordo, 111

6. Jari-Matti Latvala, 104

7. Mads Østberg, 90

8. Ott Tänak, 60

9. Kris Meeke, 54

10. Craig Breen, 36

Manufacturers’ Championship

1. Volkswagen Motorsport, 322 points

2. Hyundai Motorsport, 260

3. M-Sport, 144

4. Volkswagen Motorsport II, 136

5. Hyundai Motorsport N, 124

6. DMACK, 74

7. Jipocar Czech National Team, 18

8. Yazeed Racing, 4

Just two rounds to go then and who will win the remaining rallies? With Wales Rally GB and Rally Australia left this year. Kris would love to win at home and I’m thinking Hayden will be treating Australia as almost a home event.

Pop back, and checkout my Previews and Reviews later this month.

Warren Nel

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