Our home heroes Dani and Carlos were immediately on the pace in their first WRC event since Rallye Deutschland in August, as they finished Friday’s gravel stages in second place overall.
The penultimate round of the 2018 WRC season, Rally de España, the only mixed surface round of the championship, got underway on Thursday evening with a short stage in Barcelona.
Friday’s itinerary, the longest individual day of the rally, covered a repeat loop of three stages – the all-gravel Gandesa (7km) and Pesells (26.59km) routes, as well as the mixed surface La Fatarella – Vilalba test (38.85km).
Go hard or go home
In a tantalising battle for the podium, just 3.4 seconds separated our Spaniards from Elfyn Evans in third and Sébastien Loeb in fourth on Friday evening.
“I am very happy to be back for my home rally,” said Dani. “I am quite satisfied with my day. It’s very competitive and there are lots of crews who are fighting for the top-three. If we want to remain in the battle, we have to push hard.”
Both Dani/Carlos and our Norwegian crew of Andreas/Anders registered stage wins, while championship leader Thierry/Nicolas was hampered as first on the gravel roads.
“In the opening stages this morning, I struggled to find any control from the car,” said Andreas. “We made a few changes and the feeling was suddenly there. I could push and we were fastest in the long stage before lunch, which was a nice feeling.”
Every which way but loose
Further down the order, our Belgian crew was keeping a positive approach after a frustrating day of stage sweeping. “We have gone as fast as we can but it has been hugely disappointing to struggle so much in the loose conditions,” said Thierry. “A tricky day but we are not too far behind Ogier.”
“We knew it would be a challenging day, especially for Thierry as first on the road,” added our Team Principal Michel. “We know it’s an uphill battle in the manufacturers’ title chase but we will keep giving it all we have.”
The action moves onto tarmac stages on Saturday with Hyundai Motorsport’s team of mechanics transforming the three Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC cars from gravel into tarmac specification during a 75-minute Friday evening service.
Classification after Day One
1 O. Tänak / M. Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 1:34:27.4
2 D. Sordo / C. del Barrio (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +26.8
3 E. Evans / D. Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +29.7
4 S. Loeb / D. Elena (Citroën C3 R5) +30.2
5 J.M Latvala / M. Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +37.6
6 A. Mikkelsen / A. Jæger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +39.1
7 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +39.4
8 C. Breen / S. Martin (Citroën C3 R5) +44.7
9 T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +59.7
10 E. Lappi / J. Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:07.4