Ogier on verge of first WRC win since part-time switch

Sébastien Ogier has one stage to get through in order to win in Spain


Sébastien Ogier is one stage away from taking his first World Rally Championship win of the season on Rally Spain, taking another fastest time to reaffirm his lead over the chasing Thierry Neuville.

A push from Neuville in the darkness of Sunday’s early hours had narrowed the gap to Ogier somewhat – but the eight-time world champion hit back on Pratdip, going quickest by 1.7s to establish a 15.8s lead heading to the powerstage.

Despite the size of the gap, Neuville intends to keep pushing all the way to the finish: “We definitely going to keep the pressure. We don’t know what can happen.”

But he was also realistic about his chances – he won’t make it happen on pace alone and was himself somewhat cautious to avoid any puncture risk in the many corner cuts.


“I was maybe too careful in the cuts to be honest. Quite dirty,” added Neuville. “We have seen a lot of punctures over the years in this stage. I could have done better but anyhow, I think the gap is too big.”

It appears unlikely that Ott Tänak will catch Kalle Rovanperä for the final podium place, as while he did take another two seconds out of the newly crowned world champion, he still has 8.6s to find on the 9.9 miles of Riudecanyes.

“Performance doesn’t make much difference at the moment,” reflected Tänak, while Rovanperä pointed out he’d been “just trying to get through without any punctures or issues.”

In the midfield most positions look pretty much set in stone; Dani Sordo was content that “at least I tried” as he chased (but in this case fell short of) another stage win while running fifth, while Elfyn Evans is simply “getting through” on his way to sixth.

Seventh place looks under lock and key once more for Takamoto Katsuta, having briefly come under threat from Adrien Fourmaux in the darkness of Pratdip’s first pass earlier on Sunday.

But since the sun has come up Fourmaux’s speed has gone down, dropping another 3.8s to the solo Toyota Next Generation car and widening the gap to 17.1s.

Katsuta has gone with a mildly peculiar tire strategy, putting a single soft tire in the trunk: “This soft making a little bit mental support for me if it’s raining,” he said, likely a reaction to some light spitting that occurred as the cars returned to Port Aventura for mid-morning service.

“OK, maybe not raining, but if it’s raining, if you have one soft, mentally it’s a little bit easier.”


Instead of chasing Katsuta, Fourmaux now has Craig Breen closing behind, having conceded 5.9s to his M-Sport team-mate.

Breen is now 3.9s behind Fourmaux but indicated he had no interest in trying to steal eighth place away.

“Honestly, it’s not the intention to catch Adrien,” said Breen. “I just want to finish the rally with a good rhythm and not make any mistakes.”

Jourdan Serderidis in the fifth Ford Puma has had a tough morning; on the first loop he fought his way through with broken power steering, then reported a drop in power on the second pass of Pratdip.

“Now we have an engine issue,” said Serderidis. “In the middle of the stage, beginning was very good, then I lost the power, I don’t know why. Maybe the hybrid, not sure.”