Dani Sordo and Jari-Matti Latvala jointly lead Rally de Espana following Saturday morning's opening loop.
Sordo and Latvala both trailed Sebastien Ogier after Friday's three night stages and they continued to do so after SS4 and SS5. However in SS6, Ogier damaged his left front tyre and picked up a puncture, losing over 50 seconds. As a result he dropped to sixth on the leaderboard in his Volkswagen Polo R WRC, 46.8 seconds off the leaders.
“It's just part of the strategy, I don't want to open the road on Sunday!” Ogier joked in an interview with the official WRC site. “The reality is just a puncture. It happened when we hit something in a cut on one of the corners. It must have been in the grass, we didn't have it in our notes.”
Sordo meanwhile, after slowing in the final test on Friday night for tactical reasons, was a man on a mission, setting the joint quickest time with Latvala in SS4, before going outright quickest in SS5 to haul himself ahead of the Finn. The Spaniard then posted the second fastest in SS6 in his Citroen DS3 WRC, and now heads into the mid-day service tied for the lead with Latvala. Latvala incidentally was quickest in the final test of the loop and second in SS5.
“I'm pushing a lot, and we're in a really interesting battle,” Sordo said. “However, we can have a flat tyre at any time. We need to be careful.”
“I'm following my own pace,” Latvala insisted. “The tyres got quite damaged [in that last test]. Anything could happen tomorrow when we switch to gravel.”
Behind, Qatar World Rally Team driver Thierry Neuville is third and currently on course for the final spot on the podium, albeit 31.4 seconds off the fight for the lead.
“I'm in a podium position at the moment so it is not so bad, but still I cannot drive how I would like to,” stated the Belgian. “The settings are not 100 per cent correct for these stages and although we have tried a lot of different things, we're not seeing too much of a difference – maybe we should put some more abrasive tarmac on the stages I'm struggling with and I'm sure my times would improve!
“We have already lost a lot of time to the front, so the mission now will be to keep that gap as small as possible.”
Mikko Hirvonen is next up in his Citroen, 9.1 seconds back, with Evgeny Novikov rounding out the top five, only 5.9 seconds adrift of P4 and only 0.4 seconds up on Ogier in P6.
“I think it has been quite a good morning for us,” Novikov remarked. “We're not taking any big risks and we have been especially careful in the cuts so as to minimise the risk of any punctures. But all in all I am happy with the driving and everything is OK. Hopefully we can increase a little bit more this afternoon and set some more good times.”