C3 WRCs FIRED UP FOR CATALAN CHALLENGE
Sébastien Loeb – Daniel Elena and Craig Breen – Scott Martin finished fourth and seventh fastest respectively on this morning's shakedown, confirming – despite the unrepresentative nature of the stage – they are raring to go on the only mixed surface rally of the season, just like Khalid Al Qassimi and Chris Patterson.
Largely unrepresentative of the stages that lie ahead this weekend, this morning's shakedown (2.00km), contested on both gravel and tarmac, was primarily an opportunity to conduct final checks on the cars, whilst providing the crews with a last chance to get their bearings before the start.
Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena gradually improved on each of their runs, eventually finishing with the fourth fastest time, proving that they have lost none of the pace they showed at their last WRC appearance in Corsica. In setting the fastest time of the opening runs, which is always a sign of good form, Craig Breen and Scott Martin confirmed that they too will be a force to be reckoned with this weekend, ultimately ending the session in seventh place. Meanwhile, Khalid Al Qassimi and Chris Patterson completed four runs, focusing on getting miles under their belt and gathering information for the race.
The opening super special stage (3.20km) returns to the rally this year, held in the centre of Barcelona this evening, an occasion which is almost certain to be a big hit with the Catalan rally fans. However, the serious business of the rally doesn't get underway until tomorrow with the longest leg of the weekend (144.88km in six stages) contested on gravel, with Craig Breen, Sébastien Loeb and Khalid Al Qassimi running in eighth, eleventh and twelfth positions on the road. The day includes two runs on the formidable La Fatarella – Vilalba (38.85km) stage, which features more than six kilometres on tarmac contested with gravel tyres…
WHAT THEY SAID
"We used this morning's session mainly to continue to get our bearings back in the car because the stage bears no real resemblance to the rest of the rally. I'm expecting a tough day tomorrow, with quite a high risk of picking up punctures. There's also the La Fatarella – Vilalba stage which is difficult to read, but we're going to give it everything to finish as high up the standings as possible."
"The times are not significant on this shakedown but it's always good for confidence to be the quickest off the mark. I can't wait to get started now. We are going to try and make the most of our good position in the running order on tomorrow's leg but it does look like it will be pretty tricky."
Khalid Al Qassimi
"This morning, I focused on driving with the tyre set-up that we will be using for majority of tomorrow's stages, which wasn't necessarily ideal because the tyres weren't totally suited to today's stage. But this way, we were able to fine-tune our preparations. I also hope that we have some good, dry weather tomorrow so we can really enjoy the stage as much as possible."
- Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 1:34.9
- Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) 1:35.2
- Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) 1:35.7
- Loeb / Elena (Citroën C3 WRC) 1:36.0
- Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) 1:36.1
- Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 1:36.2
- Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) 1:36.4
- Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) 1:36.5
- Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) 1:36.8
27. Al Qassimi / Patterson (Citroën C3 WRC) 1:41.9