The TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team drivers wowed the crowds in Barcelona as the penultimate round of the season got underway with a stage on the streets of the city, with Ott Tänak setting the third-fastest time. Earlier in the day, the shakedown in Salou allowed the team to complete its preparations for the only mixed-surface event in the FIA World Rally Championship.
Shakedown was held on a two-kilometre course just outside the service park, featuring both gravel and asphalt. But with different characteristics to the stages that lie ahead over the weekend, the objective was to check that the systems on the cars were working correctly, rather than major setup work. Jari-Matti Latvala recorded the second-best time, with Esapekka Lappi fifth and Tänak sixth.
The opening stage of the rally was held in the stunning surroundings of the Montjuïc area of the city, with the cars tackling the asphalt streets in gravel specification in readiness for Friday’s gravel-focused day. All three Toyota Yaris WRC drivers completed the stage without incident, and are within 10 seconds of the lead.
Tom Fowler (Chief Engineer)
“Our shakedown concentrated on systems checks, which were all carried out OK with no issues. Although the shakedown stage had a mix of surfaces, there was not so much to learn about car setup as we were using just a gravel configuration. This rally is very challenging in that sense. This evening we had a city stage with a gravel setup – ready for the rally to start fully with a day of gravel tomorrow – and the drivers just needed to get through it safely. The mix of surfaces also created a challenge for our pre-event testing given the limited days we are allowed. We chose to focus on asphalt because the circuit-like roads here in Catalunya are very specialised and the car has had so much development since we were last here a year ago. On gravel we can can be confident in our performance based on recent rallies.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (Driver car 7)
“I was happy with how shakedown went, and the car was already feeling good from the start. I didn’t have a good first stage, as I had one hard tyre and it was difficult to get it warmed up. Tomorrow is the important day though, and I think the La Fatarella-Vilalba stage will be one of the most critical of the rally. It has some of the old Terra Alta stage in the opposite direction, a bit of asphalt and some new gravel sections. With so many different elements it will be a big challenge, particularly how you manage the tyres.”
Ott Tänak (Driver car 8)
“The shakedown was not so representative of the rally, so we couldn’t really check the setup of the car, but everything was working as it should. Tonight’s stage was OK with no problems. Now the focus is on gravel tomorrow and to have a good day, as it’s extremely difficult to make big time differences on the asphalt roads as they are so fast and flowing. In particular, the long stage is always a decider and this year it is in the opposite direction to what we know, plus it has some new sections, so I’m sure it will be pretty interesting.”
Esapekka Lappi (Driver car 9)
“Shakedown was really nice for me and the feeling with the car was good. On the last run we tried something different with the setup for the asphalt, which didn’t work out so well on the gravel, but it was good to try it. It’s always nice to be here in Spain and the atmosphere was amazing tonight for the opening stage. I have never driven a World Rally Car in such a big city and it was great to bring the rally close to the fans and to the people of Barcelona.”
End of day one (Thursday):
1 Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 3m35.3s
2 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +3.7s
3 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +4.2s
4 Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +5.6s
5 Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +6.0s
6 Eric Camilli/Benjamin Veillas (Volkswagen Polo GTI R5) +7.4s
7 Dani Sordo/Carlos Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +7.5s
8 Kalle Rovanpera/Jonne Halttunen (Skoda Fabia R5) +8.6s
9 Craig Breen/Scott Martin (Citroen C3 WRC) +8.7s
10 Jan Kopecky/Pavel Dresler (Skoda Fabia R5) +9.0s
11 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +9.7s
12 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +9.8s
(Results as of 20:00 on Thursday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)
Friday features three stages to the west of Salou, beginning with the all-gravel Gandesa and Pesells tests that were last run on the event in 2014. Then comes La Fatarella-Vilalba: at 38.85 kilometres the longest stage of the event and one that features many changes between gravel and asphalt. All three stages will be repeated in the afternoon following midday service.
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