Day 1 of rally spain hit the gravel mountain tracks. It was expected that being first on the road would be a small handicap for Loeb, but as it turned out, it was the best place to be.
As Super Seb kicked up the dust, it caused massive visibility problems for the crews behind. On just the first stage alone, championship rival Mikko Hirvonen lost 15seconds, and had a small off on a double right hand corner because he couldn’t see the road at all. Sebastien Ogier was 18 seconds down on Loeb with the hanging dust causing problems for everyone behind the 7 times champion. Hirvonen’s team mate Latvala was 2nd quickest however.
Petter was out on the 1st stage with a broken wheel about half way though the stage and couldn’t continue, a real shame after his promising pace on Pre-event Shakedown. Mini driver, and Spaniard Dani Sordo lost 40 seconds due to hanging dust, couldn’t see anything on fast sections and wasn’t at all happy about the situation. His team mate Kris Meeke and Citroen privateer Novikov both checked into the stage a minute later to take a 10 second penalty to avoid the dust from previous cars, making it a 4 min gap.
further down, ott tanak and Karl Kruuda also took a wheel off in SS1. PWRC champion Hayden Paddon was out before he started with an electrical problem resulting in no Throttle, he will super rally tomorrow.
Ogier was quickest on following stage, and again on Stage 3, showing that the dust wasn’t as bad as SS1 but still not ideal, the Organisers have decided to change the gaps to 4mins for every car into the stage for the afternoon. Ex-F1 driver Kimi Raikkonen stopped 4km away from finish on stage 3 with engine trouble, it’s thought that the engine came from same batch as Loebs engine in France. Ken Block also hit problems with broken Steering Column.
On the first stage of the afternoon, Latvala set great pace and took the lead from Loeb by 8 seconds overall. After changing the gap to 4 minutes for the afternoon loop to solve the dust issues, everyone behind seemed a little happier with their runs through. On the following stage, disaster hit Ogier 9km in with a puncture and lost one an a half minutes. This moves Hirvonen up to 3rd overall 1 minute off the lead. Latvala continued his flying Finn charge, and went anther 8 seconds faster than Loeb, and leads by 16 seconds overall heading into the days final ‘night’ Stage.
Drama on the final night stage, Loeb had no Problem driving through and setting the fastest time, but behind, the combination of Darkness and dust was what some drivers called “Dangerous”. Hirvonen lost 10 seconds to Loeb and said at stage end to Rally radio reporters, “I hope this proves to everyone that’s it’s really stupid to drive gravel stage in the dark.” The drama came in The form of rally leader Latvala, who spun off in the stage hitting some rocks, resulting in a front Puncture, and dropped over 30 seconds and back to 2nd place overall at the end of a dusty day 1 in Spain. Hirvonen finishes the day in 3rd. Ogier 4th, Dani Sordo on his home event ends the day in 5th with team mate Kris Meeke in 6th. Mads Ostberg heads the Stobart team in 7th, With Henning Solberg behind. Wilson and Villagra 9th and 10th.
The Quote of the rally so for this weekend has come from Mads Ostberg, who hit just abt everything in the final night stage but made it through in one piece saying “It’s hard to be sensible when your stupid enough to do the Stage”.