On Friday, the opening leg will be mainly contested on mountainous gravel roads, although the long Terra Alta stage includes sections on tarmac. At the end of day one, the teams will have an hour and 15 minutes in which to convert the cars to tarmac configuration. The longest service of the year is always a bit special, for mechanics and fans alike. The main alterations made during service involve changing the transmission and suspension systems, and reducing the level of chassis protection.
The final two legs are then contested on tarmac. The Catalan event is famous for its wide, smooth, circuit-style roads. The aerodynamic efficiency and engine power of the 2017 World Rally Cars should be something to behold on this surface. Since cutting the corners is common here, the drivers will need to keep an eye out to avoid hitting loose rocks and picking up a puncture.
Ford Fiesta WRC lead the way in both championships, the Spanish fixture could prove pivotal, the team having their first, albeit very slim, mathematical chance of clinching the manufacturers’ crown. Four-time Sébastien Ogier knows what it takes to master the mixed-surface terrain of Rally Spain. The Frenchman has secured victory at the Spanish fixture on three separate occasions and will be determined to deliver another strong result this week.
Currently holding a 17 point lead at the head of the driver standings, Ogier will be aiming to maintain and extend that lead ahead of the season showdown.
Following a couple of disappointing results, Hyundai WRT will be looking to bounce back in style with a three-car entry including the newest crew of Andreas Mikkensen. The Norwegian duo will line up alongside championship contenders Thierry Neuville and home driver Dani Sordo as the team look to reduce deficit to M-Sport in the manufacturers’ table. Neuville has plenty of ambition in the final rounds of the season, as he looks to recreate his rally winning form from Corsica, Argentina and Poland. “Things are delicately positioned in the drivers championship,” he commented. “We must stay focused and look to target the podium, if not victory, in all rounds. We are rested after the break, and determined to put in our strongest fight for the title.”
In the Citroën WRT camp, in a recent trials, Stéphane Lefebvre, Kris Meeke and Sébastien Loeb took turns behind the wheel and managed to come up with a set-up that suited all three of them. On tarmac the team will be capitalizing on the qualities of the Citroën C3 WRC, which were clearly demonstrated at the Tour de Corse and the ADAC Rallye Deutschland.
This year will mark Meeke’s tenth appearance at Rally Spain. To date, the British driver has not enjoyed a great deal of success in Spain. However, he had a more positive rally in 2016, which he ended with the feeling of having found the right pace at this event. As he looks to put his recent disappointments behind him, the winner of this year’s Rally Mexico will be aiming to be among the frontrunners.
After missing rounds in Finland and Germany, Lefebvre returns to the wheel of the C3 WRC in Spain. Unlike his team-mate, the Frenchman only has very limited experience of the event, but that won’t stop him from seizing the challenge. Looking to build on his fine performance at Rally Poland – where he finished fifth overall, he will aim to keep learning among the elite of world rallying. Third crew Khalid Al Qassimi will also be celebrating his tenth outing in Spain. After appearances in Portugal and Finland, the Abu Dhabi driver will be pursuing his partial program at one of his favorite rallies.