Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle ended day two of Rally Catalunya in fifth place, whilst Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson lie sixth overall this evening.
On Friday evening, the cars headed back to service in gravel configuration. The WRCs took it in turns to undergo a complete transformation, with suspension, brakes and wheels all changed specifically for tarmac in the space of 75 minutes. When, at 11.23pm, Khalid Al Qassimi’s DS 3 WRC rolled into Parc Ferme, another rally could begin.
This morning, the crews’ aim was to get up to pace on the tarmac as quickly as possible. Mads Østberg managed to stay in the top five at the start of the day, whilst Kris Meeke closed on his team-mate.
The Northern Irishman moved up from eighth to sixth position, ending the morning 11.6 seconds behind Mads. During the second loop, Kris Meeke continued to cut the gap until he eventually moved ahead of Mads Østberg on the final stage of the day, contested on the Salou sea front. Both DS 3s ended the leg in the top six.
I just made a little mistake on the final stage...
For Khalid Al Qassimi, the switch to asphalt provided an opportunity to get a good feeling in the car again. The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team driver also moved up the standings. After collecting a penalty yesterday when repairs carried out between stages meant he arrived late at a time control, he gained five places today to take him back up to 17th overall.
Stéphane Lefebvre had a less successful day. He suffered a brake problem just after leaving service this morning, forcing him to retire before he had even started the opening stage. The talented young Frenchman will rejoin the rally tomorrow.
In the FIA Junior WRC category, Quentin Gilbert relinquished first position to Simone Tempestini after a puncture on SS11. The Italian then picked up a puncture of his own on SS13, handing the advantage back to the Frenchman. Already certain to be crowned JWRC champion at the end the season, Quentin Gilbert completed day two ahead of Terry Folb and Simone Tempestini.
Six stages and 76.40 kilometres are left to go tomorrow, with no service or tyre changes allowed. The Power Stage, Duesigües 2, will begin at 12.08pm and the rally is due to finish from 1.41pm.
Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal): “Another rally started today. The aim was to help our drivers to be on the pace quickly. Mads and Kris kept improving throughout today’s first leg on tarmac and I think we can be pretty pleased this evening. It’s vital that both drivers make it to the finish and hold their positions to score the points.”
Mads Østberg: “We had to find the right feeling in the car this morning. With the team, we managed to improve the set-up so that we had a better balance for the second loop. I just made a little mistake on the final stage. We fought hard throughout the leg for every second and then we go and lose three by stalling just before the end of the day. It’s frustrating, but overall, I think we can be pretty happy with the day.”
Kris Meeke: “We played with the set-up of the car today to find the right balance for tarmac. It’s almost like driving on a racetrack here, so the slightest change to the set-up can have a dramatic effect on the overall handling of the car. The final stage was very encouraging. We have to maintain that pace and try to bring home as many points as possible tomorrow!”
Khalid Al Qassimi: “I love driving on tarmac. Throughout the day, I tried to find the right balance between not taking risks and enjoying myself in the DS 3 WRC. When there was dust on the road, I was more cautious and when the racing line was clean, I pushed more.”
Standings after day 2
1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 2:34:56.4
2. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +54.0
3. Andreas Mikkelsen / Ola Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +56.9
4. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:01.4
5. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (DS 3 WRC) +1:42.2
6. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (DS 3 WRC) +1:43.7
7. Hayden Paddon / John Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:56.5
8. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:56.5
9. Martin Prokop / Jan Tomanek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +4:22.9
10. Pontus Tidemand / Emil Axelsson (Skoda Fabia R5) +7:12.16
17. Khalid Al Qassimi / Chris Patterson (DS 3 WRC) +14:41.9