Citroen's Sebastien Loeb was fastest this morning in the qualifying stage for Rally de Espana, the final round in the 2012 World Rally Championship.
Loeb completed the 2.94 kilometre Emprius de Salou test in 2 minutes 6.100 seconds, which put him 0.1 seconds up on Evgeny Novikov's DMACK tyres-shod Ford Fiesta RS WRC car. Loeb will now get first choice of start position for Friday's opening day, which is run mostly on gravel.
Mikko Hirvonen meanwhile was third in the sister works Citroen DS3 WRC car, 0.2 seconds further back, while the Fords of Jari-Matti Latvala and Petter Solberg came in fourth and fifth respectively.
“I thought I was setting a good time, but in the end, as always, Loeb was the fastest!” Hirvonen lamented.
“I made a mistake and the back tyre slid out,” Latvala conceded, “but it was nothing important.”
“I had a problem in a corner [too],” Solberg added, "as I could not use first gear.”
Behind, Thierry Neuville rounded out the top six in his Citroen Junior WRT DS3 WRC, followed by local star, Dani Sordo, Ott Tanak, Mads Ostberg and Martin Prokop in positions 7 through to 10.
“I made a couple of mistakes, but with such a short stage that meant I lost quite a lot of time,” Sordo said.
Drivers will now select their start positions in a few hours time. Rally de Espana then gets underway 'proper' on Friday, with SS1, the 7 km Gandesa 1 test, due to start at 07.45 hours local time (06.45 hours UK time).
Rally de Espana: Qualifying stage:
1. Sebastien Loeb
Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC 2m 06.100s
2. Evgeny Novikov
Ford Fiesta RS WRC +0.100s
3. Mikko Hirvonen
Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +0.300s
4. Jari-Matti Latvala
Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +0.500s
5. Petter Solberg
Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +0.800s
6. Thierry Neuville
Citroen Junior WRT Citroen DS3 WRC +1.300s
7. Dani Sordo
Prodrive WRC Team MINI John Cooper Works WRC +1.400s
8. Ott Tanak
M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +1.500s
9. Mads Ostberg
Adapta WRT Fiesta RS WRC +1.600s
10. Martin Prokop
Czech Ford National Team Fiesta RS WRC +3.400s
11. Han Weijs
Qatar WRT Citroen DS3 WRC +3.500s
12. Jarkko Nikara
Prodrive WRC Team MINI John Cooper Works WRC +4.200s
13. Chris Atkinson
WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC +4.500s
14. Daniel Oliveira
Brazil WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +5.100s
15. Abdulaziz Alkuwari
Seashore Qatar WRT MINI John Cooper Works WRC +9.500s
16. John Powell
M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +12.300s
17. Paulo Nobre
WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC +15.000s
all times unofficial