Sébastien Ogier gives no option and wins a new RallyRACC in Salou
The Toyota couple formed by Sébastien Ogier and Benjamin Veillas (Toyota GR Yaris Rally1) have achieved their first victory in Salou since the French began sharing the cabin at the beginning of the season. This is Ogier's fourth victory in the Tarragona event after those he achieved in 2013, 2014 and 2016, all of them under the umbrella of the now defunct Volkswagen WRC team.
He did not get it in either of the two editions in which he competed with Ford, Citroën or last year when he was already part of the Toyota drivers' bunch, but this year the 57th RallyRACC Catalunya-Costa Daurada, Rally de España 2022, 12th and penultimate round of the World Rally Championship, has been the scene of his reunion with victory. His last victory was in November 2021 at the Monza Rally, a victory that earned him the title of World Champion for the eighth time in the Frenchman's successful sports career.
The podium was completed by Thierry Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid) and the 2022 world champion Finnish duo of Kalle Rovanperä and Jonne Halttunen (Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid). Ott Tänak and Martin Jarveoja stayed just outside the privileged positions with a discreet fourth place. Dani Sordo and Cándido Carrera (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid) finished in fifth position, half a minute behind their teammates Tänak-Järveoja. With this fifth place, Sordo and Carrera put an end to the streak of five consecutive podium finishes that precisely started in Salou in last year's edition when they were third.
Since then, the duo formed by the only two representatives in the WRC had risen to third position on the podium in all the rallies they had contested at the World Cup level: Catalunya, Monza, Portugal, Sardinia and Greece.
The stage winner in 2021, Dani Sordo, was precisely the fastest driver on the first pass through Pratdip 1 when he set the fastest time in a stage that was run before dawn. After the one he achieved on Saturday at El Montmell 2, this was the Cantabrian's second scratch in the RallyRACC and he was three tenths ahead of Neuville, who kept up his particular battle with Rovanperä, whom he only managed to endorse by one tenth. As in the previous stages, Ogier began the day discreetly, setting the eighth fastest time, three and a half seconds behind the reference.
Neuville wins at Pratdip
The first pass through Riudecanyes was dominated by the Belgian Thierry Neuville who at the controls of his Hyundai set the tone in one of the most legendary sections of the Tarragona event. Ogier woke up and set the second fastest time, losing more than three seconds to Neuville whom he was 14 seconds behind at the end of the morning loop. Third in discord was none other than Kalle Rovanperä practically half a minute behind and with the intention of maintaining the position until the end of the rally to score some valuable points against Toyota and proclaim themselves world champions for manufacturers.
The morning loop began with the second pass through the twisty Pratdip stage in which Ogier would set the fastest time once again to lead Neuville by almost two seconds. Ott Tänak, third almost two seconds behind, closed the Top3 with Dani Sordo close to the head, enjoying himself behind the wheel of the i20 N Rally1 and with better feelings than in the first two stages of the Tarragona event.
Ogier does not leave even the crumbs
The Riudecanyes special, which shared the first four kilometers with the shakedown on Thursday, was the setting for the Power Stage, which awarded five, four, three, two and one point to the fastest five. Far from resigning himself to completing the stage without taking any risks, Ogier pulled his gallons to set the best time also in the last of the stages and thus complete a great weekend. The Frenchman left Salou with the maximum possible points by winning 30 (25 corresponding to the victory of the rally and 5 extras from the Power Stage).
“From the first day we saw that we had the speed to win, but we needed to finish the weekend without problems, which has not been the usual this year for Ben and me”, recognized the Frenchman with a laugh after winning the rally.
The Top5 of the Power Stage also coincided with the first five positions in the general classification. Thierry Neuville had to settle for second position in the stage, adding four points while Kalle Rovanperä set the third fastest time, a position in which he closed the podium.
The Estonian Ott Tänak could only be fourth in both the Power Stage and the general classification in a weekend in which his continuity in the World Rally Championship for 2023 has been questioned. Dani Sordo was weighed down by his inexperience on asphalt with the new Hyundai model with which it debuted this weekend on said surface: "I am still learning how the car behaves," he explained.
Sordo, who only gave a few glimpses of his speed at specific moments, knew little about that discreet fifth position in what may well be his last World Cup rally on Spanish soil in his career.
"I gave absolutely everything, but the car oversteered too much towards the end of the stage because the tires overheated in the corners," said Sordo. "It was amazing to see so many fans on the stages, I apologize for the result, but I hope you enjoyed it," he concluded. To make matters worse, the Cantabrian was penalized after the test for having used more hybrid energy than was allowed by the FIA during the Riudecanyes Power Stage.
With regard to the lower categories that also contested the RallyRACC, the Finns Teemu Suninen and Mikko Markkula claimed victory in WRC3 while their compatriots Lauri Joona and Mikko Korhonen did the same, consecrating themselves as champions of the category after face to face with the Czech Cerny throughout the stages of the weekend. On Saturday, Óscar Plaomo was also proclaimed champion of the ERC Junior category.