Rally de Espana surprises for WRC’s front runners

After three stages of the final round of the 2012 WRC, Mads Ostberg (Adapta World Rally Team) and Ott Tanak (M-Sport Ford World Rally Team) putting on a spectacular performance thus far. The two Ford Fiesta RS WRC drivers thrilled in the morning’s opening loop of stages, including the torturously long 44km SS3.

It was, however, SS2 that proved the most costly to the WRC crews. Petter Solberg (Ford World Rally Team), Thierry Neuville (Citroën Junior Team), Andreas Mikkelsen (Volkswagen Motorsport) retiring from the event in this stage after hitting a large rock, but WRC Team MINI Portugal’s Chris Atkinson survived hitting the same rock that saw the demise of his rivals. Ironically, this is the exact same place (and perhaps rock) that knocked Solberg out of the event in 2011…

For regular WRC front runners Sebastien Loeb (Citroën Total World Rally Team) and Jari-Matti Latvala (Ford World Rally Team), running low down the start order proved a mistake as heavy rain fell on SS2 that caused the roads to become very slippery and muddy. Remember, these opening stages are on grave roads only.

Estonian Tanak powered to take the rally lead after SS2, by 0.1sec from Ostberg. SS1 leader Latvala lost nearly a minute in the severely slippery SS2 route and dropped down the order. Ostberg attacked in SS3 to move ahead of the rest of the field by 2.7sec. Loeb maintained a calm attitude and raced through SS3’s 44km route to climb the leader board to lie fourth overall at the mid-day halt.

Dani Sordo was forced to park his Prodrive-backed MINI Countryman John Cooper Works WRC machine after SS3. His new team-mate Jarkko Nikara is impressing all: the former Pirelli Star Driver is only 14sec adrift of Latvala in sixth and is keeping Evgeny Novikov (M-Sport Ford World Rally Team) honest.

Top ten after SS3 of Day One’s six stages:
01) M. ØSTBERG – 51m 18.8s
02) O. TANAK + 2.7s
03) M. HIRVONEN + 13.1s
04) S. LOEB + 19.5s
05) J-M. LATVALA + 55.1s
06) J. NIKARA + 01m 09.4s
07) E. NOVIKOV + 01m 14.5s
08) C. ATKINSON + 02m 32.6s
09) H. WEIJS + 02m 47.6s
10) C. BREEN + 03m 19.6s