for RallyRACC Catalunya – Rally de Espana leaderboard after SS7
Hyundai's Dani Sordo took the lead on his home RallyRACC Catalunya - Rally de Espana on Friday afternoon, with Sebastien Ogier slipping to second.
Sordo had been fourth overall after the opening loop, 10.2secs off Ogier's Volkswagen, but the Spaniard made the most of his better road position on the repeats and was quickest in SS5 and SS6, before coming in second in SS7.
It means he will now take a 17 second advantage into day two, when the action switches to tarmac.
“It has been an unbelievable day. I am really pleased to be leading the rally, particularly in front of all these amazing Spanish fans,” Sordo said.
“The New Generation i20 WRC has been fantastic to drive today, and it is thanks to the whole team that we have been able to start the rally in such a positive manner.
“The wet conditions have made these stages very slippery, so it has been an achievement to make it through without any problems. We haven't really been taking any risks so far, but as we move onto asphalt for the remaining days, we need to make sure that we keep up the fight.”
After rain in the morning, the sun came out in the afternoon, but the stages remained muddy and water logged, particularly for the early runners.
“Terrible conditions,” Ogier told the official WRC site after losing 16.3secs in Caseres 2. “Lots of ruts. Very, very difficult just to stay on the road.”
“Much tougher than this morning. It's not dry at all,” Ogier added after SS6, where he conceded another 5.7secs to Sordo. “The ruts are deeper and full of water which I'm clearing out for the cars behind.”
Behind, VW Motorsport II pilot Andreas Mikkelsen now finds himself third, 18.1secs off Ogier and 11.2secs up on Thierry Neuville, the Belgian having spun in SS5, clipping a tree and removing the front bodywork, leaving his i20 WRCs radiator exposed.
“It happened in a slow right-hand corner,” Neuville explained. “I was on the inside and lost it. I stalled the engine and it took a long time to get going.”
Jari-Matti Latvala was also in trouble in the first test this afternoon and after damaging the suspension on his Polo R WRC had to retire. He had been third. The Finn will now re-start on Saturday under Rally 2.
Meanwhile, Hayden Paddon holds fifth. The Kiwi was overhauled by Neuville in the sister i20 WRC in SS7, ending the leg just 1.2secs adrift, despite still nursing a throttle problem that left him down on power.
Mads Ostberg rounds out the top-six for M-Sport, with Britain's Kris Meeke seventh, only 12secs back even though he rolled his Citroen DS 3 WRC car in SS2.
Craig Breen is then eighth in his Citroen DS 3 WRC ahead of DMACK's Ott Tanak and M-Sport #2 Eric Camilli. Kevin Abbring holds P11.
In WRC2, Pontus Tidemand snatched the lead from fellow Skoda Fabia R5 runner Jan Kopecky in the final test of the day. Tidemand will now take a 3sec cushion into the overnight halt. Julien Maurin is third, albeit more than a minute further back.
RallyRACC Catalunya - Rally de Espana now continues on Saturday with eight stages on the bill and a total competitive distance of almost 140 kilometres.
SS8, the 6.28km Vilaplana test, will kick-off the second leg. It is due to start at 08.10 hours local time [07.10 hours UK time].