Six special stages and 150km of timed action made up Day One of the WRC’s RallyRACC – Rally de Espana. At the top of the leader board at the overnight halt, it was Ford privateer Mads Ostberg (Adapta World Rally Team) leading out Citroën Total World Rally Team’s crews of Sebastien Loeb and Mikko Hirvonen with Jari-Matti Latvala (Ford World Rally Team) splitting the two Citroën works drivers for third.
Ostberg held a margin of 27sec over the nine-times World Rally Champion, and the Norwegian ace deserved his position after a stellar drive on the event’s opening day.
Wet and slippery gravel roads made the going tricky for the crews, and those choosing road positions down the start order such as Mr Loeb and Ford’s factory drivers Petter Solberg and Jari-Matti Latvala came short in their gamble.
Ostberg battled with M-Sport Ford Rally Team’s Ott Tanak for the overall lead, but Tanak’s pace began to drop off in the afternoon loop as conditions worsened on the rutted and broken up gravel tracks.
“It’s been extremely difficult today. But we seemed to cope with extremely difficult conditions very well,” said Ostberg. “I’m very happy with the day and I’m looking forward to doing some racing tomorrow. There are two more long days and if everything is perfect it is even possible to keep Loeb behind. But I reckon it will be hard to do two perfect days on tarmac.”
It will be a great scrap for the lead today, watching Loeb work his magic behind his car’s steering wheel. Ostberg will put on a brave fight over the next two days, but to defeat the factory crews in his privateer machine is a tall order. Our money is on “Mad” Mads Ostberg for the rally’s win come Sunday afternoon.
There are six stages in store for Day Two, covering a distance of 161.3km of rally action.
Top ten at the end of Day One:
01) M. OSTBERG – 01h 41m 32.4s
02) S. LOEB + 27.2s
03) J-M. LATVALA + 47.0s
04) M. HIRVONEN + 01m 02.6s
05) O. TANAK + 01m 10.8s
06) C. BREEN + 06m 00.9s
07) H. WEIJS + 06m 08.5s
08) J. NIKARA + 09m 00.0s
09) P.G. ANDERSSON + 09m 42.4s
10) E. NOVIKOV + 10m 59.5s