Hyundai's Hayden Paddon was fastest on Thursday morning in the shakedown for RallyRACC Catalunya-Costa Daurada.
Paddon, who inked a new three-year deal
with the team in the build-up to this event, the penultimate round in the 2015 World Rally Championship, opted for three passes through the mixed-surface 2.97 km Salou test, posting the best time on his second run, when he completed it in 2 minuted 7.5 seconds.
That left him 0.2s up on Volkswagen's Sebastien Ogier and 0.3s up on Ford privateer Robert Kubica in third.
“Although the stage wasn't representative of the rally it was a good chance to check the car was working and, as we're back on loose surfaces, to make sure the set-up from Australia is working well,” Paddon told the official WRC site.
“We'll push hard on the gravel tomorrow. We have a good road position so we need to ensure we make the most of that and try to be near the front. When we get to the asphalt we'll focus on learning as much as we can. We'll struggle to be as competitive there but we need to start somewhere.”
“Rally Spain is one of my favourite rallies on the calendar,” Ogier added, “not only because Julien [Ingrassia – my co-driver] and I have won here on the last two occasions, but switching from gravel to asphalt at the end of the long opening day makes this round of the WRC particularly challenging.
“As a driver, you have to adapt very quickly from a softer gravel set-up to a far firmer asphalt set-up, with which the car reacts far more directly and generates a log more grip. As such, the shakedown is not so meaningful here, because we will be underway with a completely different car as of Saturday. We are well prepared though, and the Polo is running perfectly – bring it on.”
Behind, M-Sport's Ott Tanak took fourth ahead of local star Dani Sordo, who rounded out the top five in his Hyundai i20 WRC.
Volkswagen duo Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen were then sixth and seventh, while Elfyn Evans and Thierry Neuville tied for eighth.
“It is important to find the right set-up for asphalt and gravel at this rally, with its changes in surface. All in all, the Polo felt good. It was not particularly easy this morning, as parts of the route were really slippery. As such, I tended to hold back a bit. But I am happy – the shakedown went to plan. I am now looking forward to the rally,” Latvala said.
“Today's shakedown was a nice warm-up, which passed without any problems for us,” Mikkelsen continued. “As far as the characteristics of the route are concerned, this was not particularly representative of what we can expect over the coming days, but whatever happens, we are well prepared.
“The main goal here in Spain is to secure third place in the championship. I would love to be able to drive without any tactical necessities at Wales Rally GB in three weeks' time. However, depending on the situation, I could go on the attack here in Spain. I have not yet written off second place in the World Championship.”
Further back, Mads Ostberg was the top Citroen in P10, with team-mate Kris Meeke 15.7s off the pace, having opted to scrub in some tyres for the super special this evening.
“There was no point in using the shakedown to prepare for the race,” Meeke explained. “We therefore worked on being ready for the super-special stage. You can't win the rally on this kind of test, but it is possible lose it. There's always a great atmosphere here.
“The organisers have done a good job on the itinerary with the start in Barcelona and the opening gravel stage not beginning until after 10am tomorrow. That's very positive, because the conditions should be perfect!”
RallyRACC Catalunya-Costa Daurada now begins later today with the ceremonial start at 13.00 hours local time [12.00 hours UK time] and SS1, the short 3.20 km Barcelona SSS, at 18.08 hours local time [17.08 hours UK time]. The action then starts proper on Friday, with eight stages on the bill and a total competitive distance of 128.60 km.
Full itinerary for round twelve in WRC 2015 available - HERE
2015 RallyRACC Catalunya-Costa Daurada: Shakedown times (Top 10):
1. Hayden Paddon
Hyundai Motorsport N i20 WRC 2m 07.5s
2. Sebastien Ogier
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 2m 07.7s
3. Robert Kubica
Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2m 07.8s
4. Ott Tanak
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2m 08.6s
5. Dani Sordo
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC 2m 08.8s
6. Jari-Matti Latvala
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 2m 09.5s
7. Andreas Mikkelsen
Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC 2m 09.7s
8. Elfyn Evans
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2m 10.3s
= Thierry Neuville
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC 2m 10.3s
10. Mads Ostberg
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC 2m 10.5s
11. Martin Prokop
Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2m 12.4s
12. Lorenzo Bertelli
Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2m 13.4s
13. Stephane Lefebvre
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC 2m 13.8s
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC 2m 16.6s
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC 2m 23.2s
M denotes Manufacturer entry
(Number in brackets) indicates number of passes
all times unofficial