· The first tarmac day is raced under the rain
· A puncture ditches Tänak/Järveoja (Toyota) hopes for title
· Sunday’s four tarmac SS will prove decisive
Salou-PortAventura World, 27th October 2018.- After a thrilling and closely fought day 2 on loose surface, the 54 RallyRACC landed on asphalt today. Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja lost the lead, but another Toyota Yaris WRC tops the combined timesheet. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila seemed doomed after a puncture sent him tumbling down the order by the end of the second day, but his brilliant performance today brought back what would be his first Spanish win within reach. Uncertainty and hope will mark final day of the rally with Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) and Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (Citroën C3 WRC) breathing in their neck both within 8 seconds. Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio (Hyundai) are now 6th overall.
Local fans saw their hopes collapse after El Montmell second pass: the Spanish Daniel Sordo/Carlos del Barrio couple, at the wheel of the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, climbed to the top of the overall standings after the second stage of the day, but later lost some time at El Montmell and were demoted to 6th place.
After the cars were converted to tarmac specs overnight, 58 teams took the start at PortAventura World for a busy schedule, including two passes of Savallà (14.12km), Querol (21.16km) and El Montmell (24.40km) special stages, plus an additional short street stage in Salou (2.24km), covering 121.80 timed kilometres altogether.
Overnight rain left moist roads and a great degree of uncertainty about the best tyre choice. The opening stage was cancelled for safety reasons due to spectators walking on the road only 30’ before the start time, and cars were diverted to the alternative route towards Querol. Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) reasserted their domination by taking a win in this extremely slippery tarmac test.
Moving on to the next stage, Jari-Matti Latvala/Mikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) secured fastest time in El Montmell, while an unfortunate puncture sent Ott Tänak’s podium hopes down the drain. Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) inherited the lead and reached the PortAventura World mid-leg service only three tenths of a second up Jari-Matti Latvala. The tables turned on the Fin this morning too: yesterday, he had admitted the podium was out of sight for him after a puncture cost him the lead and sunk him down the order.
More reshuffling right at the start of the second loop: Latvala leaped ahead of Sordo amidst changing conditions, with some dry patches alternating wet tarmac sections. Once again, tyre choice turned out to be the key. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) and Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (Citroën C3 WRC) claimed their first special sections today, the Belgian taking Savallà, and the Frenchman being crowned in Querol and reaching a commendable third place overall, only behind Latvala and Sordo. Neuville was again the fastest man in El Montmell, while Daniel Sordo fell down to 6th overall, in all likelihood left out of the podium battle.
After the short Salou street stage, won by Ott Tänak, Jari-Matti Latvala now tops the overall standings, with the two Sébastiens (Ogier and Loeb) breathing down his neck, hardly ten seconds behind. The championship title seems to be up for grabs between Ogier and Neuville, with the French Ford driver seemingly having the upper hand despite Hyundai’s Neuville excellent performance today.
Kalle Rovanpera/Jonne Halttunen (Skoda Fabia R5) head the WRC2 classification after shooting to a surprise second fastest time in Salou SS. This year’s class champion Jan Kopecký/Pavel Dresler (Skoda Fabia R5) is now second, followed by Nil Solans/Marc Martí (Ford Fiesta R5), whose performance steadily improved throughout the day.
The second-to-last round in the World Rally Championship is on to its fourth and final day of action. Two loops of the Riudecanyes (16.35km) and Santa Marina (14.50km) will bring the 54 RallyRACC to a close. The Power Stage, affording extra points to the top five cars, will be the second Santa Marina pass. Both Santa Marina runs will be broadcast live by Esport3 and Teledeporte TV channels, at 8:38 and 12:18 hours. The 61.70 timed kilometres will conclude at Salou’s waterfront, with the podium ceremony crowning the winners in the different series scheduled at 14:01 hours.
54 RallyRACC: Overall standings after day 3
1-Jari-Matti Latvala/Mikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC), a 2h.35'01"8
2-Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC), a 4"7
3-Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (Citroën C3 WRC), a 8"
4--Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC), a 9"8
5-Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC), a 12"7
6-Daniel Sordo/Carlos del Barrio (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC), a 16"5
7-Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC), a 46"5
8-Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC), a 1'00"7
9-Craig Breen/Scott Martin (Citroën C3 WRC), a 1'37"9
10-Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC), a 2'07"3
11-Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC), a 3'14"5
12-Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Skoda Fabia R5, 1r WRC2), a 6'49"3
13-Jan Kopecký/Pavel Dresler (Skoda Fabia R5, 2n WRC2), a 7'11"3
14-Nil Solans/Marc Martí (Ford Fiesta R5, 3r WRC2), a 7'11"6
15-Petter Solberg/Veronica Engan (VW Polo GTI R5, 4t WRC2), a 8'15"9