Rally Spain preview

The World Rally Championship pitches up in Salou this weekend for the penultimate round of the season, Rally Spain.

Volkswagen man Jari-Matti Latvala won last time out on the rain-affected Tour de Corse, the Finn’s second victory on asphalt, as newly-crowned champion Sebastien Ogier struggled to recover from first day issues. With the championship settled, Latvala said before Corsica that he wanted to round out the season with a hat-trick of wins. He’ll be hoping to continue that run in Spain.

Not that it’ll be easy for him. Ogier utterly dominated Rally RACC Catalunya – Costa Daurada – to use the event’s full name – last year and won in 2013, too. The playing field is levelled by the fact that more than half of the stages are new for this year, though.

As the only mixed surface event of the year, taking in both gravel and asphalt roads, the route poses its own unique challenges. The action kicks off on Thursday evening with a short Super Special stage near the Olympic stadium in Barcelona, using much of the old Montjuic Grand Prix circuit.

Friday takes the rally west of Salou for the longest leg of the event. The route takes in four stages, run twice, three on gravel but the fourth includes several long stretches of sealed surface. The loose surface sections are generally hard packed with a covering of stones. That may disadvantage Ogier, running first on the road, but he has faced the same situation all year and, despite his protests to the contrary, it’s rarely been much of a hindrance.

Saturday’s and Sunday’s stages are run entirely on Tarmac. The roads are generally wide and flowing, with gently cambered turns and a billiard table-smooth surface. Corner cutting needs to be carefully considered as the roadside is littered with sharp stones and the step back onto the Tarmac can be severe, potentially tearing tyres to shreds.

Ogier may have already won the Drivers’ Championship and Volkswagen the Manufacturers’ crown – both in Australia, both for the third time in succession – but there are still disputes to be settled.

Latvala’s second place in the standings is more-or-less safe, while VW junior Andreas Mikkelsen will be looking to consolidate his third place. Mathematically, his position could come under threat from Citroen’s Mads Ostberg. The Norwegian is only 12 points ahead of the battle for fifth; Thierry Neuville, Kris Meeke and Elfyn Evans are separated by just five points.

In the Manufacturers’ standings, Citroen holds second from Hyundai by a single point. M-Sport is still in touch, but realistically needs a double podium finish in Spain to move up the rankings.

It’s going to be a frenetic end to the season.┬áRally Spain runs from 22-25 October.

Drivers’ Championship top ten after 11 events

  1. Sebastien Ogier — Volkswagen Motorsport/VW Polo R WRC — 238 points
  2. Jari-Matti Latvala — Volkswagen Motorsport/VW Polo R WRC — 160
  3. Andreas Mikkelsen — Volkswagen Motorsport II/VW Polo R WRC — 126
  4. Mads Ostberg — Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT/DS 3 WRC — 98
  5. Thierry Neuville — Hyundai Motorsport/Hyundai i20 WRC — 86
  6. Kris Meeke — Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT/DS 3 WRC — 83
  7. Elfyn Evans — M-Sport WRT/Ford Fiesta RS WRC — 81
  8. Hayden Paddon — Hyundai Motorsport N/Hyundai i20 WRC — 66
  9. Ott Tanak — M-Sport WRT/Ford Fiesta RS WRC — 63
  10. Dani Sordo — Hyundai Motorsport/Hyundai i20 WRC — 62

Manufacturers’ Championship standings after 11 events

  1. Volkswagen Motorsport — 369 points
  2. Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team — 184
  3. Hyundai Motorsport — 183
  4. M-Sport World Rally Team — 170
  5. Volkswagen Motorsport II — 91
  6. Hyundai Motorsport N — 59
  7. Jipocar Czech National Team — 45

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By Only Motors

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