KRIS MEEKE IN CONTROL AT RALLY DE ESPAÑA
Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle made the most of the qualities of their Citroën C3 WRC on the Catalan tarmac to move into the overall lead. At the end of day two, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT crew holds a 13s lead over their closest challengers. Meanwhile, Stéphane Lefebvre and Gabin Moreau ended Saturday's leg in eighth position overall.
- After a short night for the mechanics, the Citroën C3 WRCs drove out of parc ferme this morning in tarmac configuration. Today's leg featured two loops, each taking in the El Montmell, El Pont d’Armentera and Savallà stages. At the end of the afternoon, the schedule was embellished with a run on the Salou super-special stage.
- Running on hard compound Michelin Pilot Sport tyres, Kris Meeke went immediately on the attack in the day's opening stage. Despite getting caught in a brief shower lasting just a few hundred metres, the Northern Irishman grabbed the stage win and with it, moved into the overall rally lead, a handful of seconds ahead of Ogier, Mikkelsen, Sordo, Tänak and Neuville.
- Once again quicker than his direct rivals on SS8, the no.7 C3 WRC driver stretched his lead to over fifteen seconds. He was even able to take it easier on the trickier sections on the final stage of the morning.
- Equally feeling very comfortable behind the wheel of his C3 WRC, Stéphane Lefebvre nonetheless struggled to really go for it in the quickest sections. Overtaken by Lappi, he held tenth position at the mid-leg service, but felt optimistic about the second pass.
- Consistently keeping with a few tenths of the stage-winning times, Kris Meeke controlled the race from the front, whilst the chasing group withered. By the end of SS12, the winner of this year's Rally Mexico still held a 14s lead over Ogier and Tänak.
- Despite struggling with brake efficiency issues on SS11, Stéphane Lefebvre managed to keep out of trouble. He moved up to eighth place, whilst again reducing the gap to the more experienced drivers.
- First on the road throughout the second leg, Khalid Al Qassimi also really enjoyed himself behind the wheel of the Citroën C3 WRC, which he was driving in its tarmac configuration for the first time. The Abu Dhabi driver ended the leg in 18th place.
- Completing his perfect day in the streets of Salou, Kris Meeke headed back to the service park with a thirteen second lead over Sébastien Ogier. Tomorrow's third and final leg will feature six stages, over a total competitive distance of 74km. The Power Stage, broadcast live on television, is due to start at 12.18pm.
Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal: "After making a good start to the rally yesterday on gravel, today Kris Meeke demonstrated the qualities of the Citroën C3 WRC on tarmac. He was able to push when it was necessary, and then manage the small lead he had established. He's had exactly the kind of race we were hoping to see from him. Victory is now within his grasp, but he'll need to get through the last six stages to get there. He knows, as we all do, that he'll have to stay focussed right until the very last metre! Stéphane Lefebvre's day played out in similar fashion to yesterday. He spent the first pass getting to know the stages and then looked to confirm what he had learned and show progress on the second run. He’ll need to remain ready to seize any opportunities that come his way to gain any extra positions."
Kris Meeke: "Today couldn't have gone any better, to be honest. We've known about the potential of the C3 WRC on tarmac since the rounds in Corsica and Germany, but I was nonetheless a bit apprehensive because we hadn't done any pre-event testing on this surface. The first stage looked like it would be tricky with the rain, but everything went well. The rest of day went much the same way, although it was pretty close with the other drivers. I'm very pleased to be leading and I obviously want to convert this first place into a win tomorrow. There are still six stages to go before we get there, the first of which will be contested in the dark. So, we won’t get ahead of ourselves: one step at a time!"
Stéphane Lefebvre: "The switch from gravel to tarmac between the first and second day is not easy at all, especially as this is the first time I have experienced this situation. I feel like I made progress throughout the day, without making any mistakes. The handling of the C3 WRC helped to give me confidence. On SS10, for example, I pushed and my time was about 2/10ths per kilometre off the pace of the stage-winning driver. I’ll be able to build on this experience to try and finish on positive note tomorrow."
Khalid Al Qassimi: "This was my first competitive outing with the C3 WRC on tarmac. And I hadn't driven on this surface for a year! I'm pleased with the day, I had a good feeling in the car. However, I opted to take it easier on the second pass, because the roads were very dirty. I preferred to stick to the lines."
1. Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) 2:16:21.1
2. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +13.0
3. Tänak / Jarveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +14.5
4. Hänninen / Lindstrom (Toyota Yaris WRC) +34.0
5. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +53.2
6. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:22.1
7. Østberg / Eriksen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:39.8
8. Lefebvre / Moreau (Citroën C3 WRC) +2:00.7
9. Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3:15.1
10. Camilli / Veillas (Ford Fiesta R5) +5:40.8
… 18. Al Qassimi / Patterson (Citroën C3 WRC) +12:01.5