Meeke wins at WRC Rally Spain; Hyundai lose grounds to M-Sport

  The WRC Rally Spain saw Kris Meeke take the win for Citroen WRT. Meeke finished ahead of Championship leader Sebastien Ogier and Ott Tanak. No luck for Hyundai crews Thierry Neuville, Andrea Mikkelsen and Dani Sordo as the drivers suffered suspension issues during the course of the rally.

In the drivers’ standings, Ogier has extended the lead to 37 points while M-Sport Ford top the manufacturers’ ranks with 83 points over Hyundai WRT. However, all is not lost as there are two more rallies to go with a maximum of 86 points still up for grabs.

The first leg on Friday was contested predominantly on gravel. Meeke quickly established himself among the leaders and won a stage (SS2) to hold fifth. He would move up to third and following a long 75-minute service, the rally continued on the wide, fast and flowing roads of Catalonia. Despite a brief shower on El Montmell (SS7), Meeke grabbed the stage win and with it, the overall lead. On the following stage, he was faster than his direct rivals to stretch his lead to over fifteen seconds.

He was then able to minimise the risks taken on the trickiest sections. The rest of the day saw some incredibly close times set by those at the top of the leaderboard. A couple of casualties in the leading group on SS12 meant that Meeke headed back to parc ferme with a 13 second lead over Ogier and 14.5 seconds clear of Tänak.

Sunday’s third and final leg featured six stages, all contested without a service period. Under cover of darkness, the No.7 C3 WRC driver warned his rivals of what was to come with his first stage win on L’Albiol (SS14). He also won the next two stages to complete a clean sweep on the first loop, extending his lead to 23.9 seconds. After claiming another two stage wins, with a total of eight out of 19 speed tests, Meeke also eased off slightly on the Power Stage, setting the second fastest time before climbing onto the roof of his C3 WRC to celebrate the win. Sordo captured the Power Stage win.

Team mate Stéphane Lefebvre had a tough start to the rally. Without making any mistakes, the Frenchman managed to reduce the gap to the leading drivers on the second pass. He ended the opening leg in ninth position. In the second leg, he went up a spot to eighth overall.

Lefebvre set off in pursuit of Mads Østberg in the second leg. After tying with the Norwegian on SS14, he went faster on the next two stages to close the gap to just 16 seconds. At the same time, the retirements of E.Lappi and Neuville promoted him to sixth overall. Lefebvre was unable to keep pushing, however, after suffering a minor hydraulics problem and then losing the intercom on the penultimate stage, he still finished the rally in sixth place.

2017 WRC Rally Spain classification

1 K. Meeke P. Nagle Citroën C3 WRC 3:01:21.1
2 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC +28.0
3 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Ford Fiesta WRC +33.0
4 J. Hänninen K. Lindström Toyota Yaris WRC +54.1
5 M. Østberg T. Eriksen Ford Fiesta WRC +2:26.2
6 S. Lefebvre G. Moreau Citroën C3 WRC +2:43.0
7 E. Evans D. Barritt Ford Fiesta WRC +4:37.4

Drivers standings
1 S. Ogier 198
2 O. Tanak 161
3 T. Neuville 160
4 J.M Latvala 123
5 D. Sordo 94
6 E. Evans 93
7 J. Hänninen 71
8 C. Breen 64
9 K. Meeke 60
10 H. Paddon 55