Mud, rain and aquaplaning: Despite difficult conditions, ŠKODA Motorsport has taken a one-two lead at the start of the Rally Spain. Pontus Tidemand / Jonas Andersson head into the final two days of the twelve round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) season with a lead of only 3.0 seconds over the second works duo Jan Kopecký / Pavel Dresler.
ŠKODA’s team of mechanics also delivered a brilliant performance: The two FABIA R5 cars of Kopecký and Tidemand were converted from gravel to asphalt set-up in an extended 75-minute service on Friday evening.
Last year’s winner snatched the lead from his team-mate Kopecký in a dramatic ŠKODA duel on the final special stage on Friday. However, Tidemand’s lead is minimal after 119.10 kilometres mainly on gravel. A total of three FABIA R5s lead the standings in the WRC2 – further proof of the class of ŠKODA’s rally car.
There are a good 200 kilometres to go around the Costa Daurada on Saturday and Sunday, which will mainly be on asphalt. The Rally Spain is the only rally with mixed surface on the WRC calendar, at which the tracks switch between gravel and asphalt. The rally got underway with a stage on the streets of Barcelona on Thursday evening, which Kopecký won. Then on Friday morning the anticipated three-way battle of the ŠKODA title contenders developed on the softened tracks saturated with deep puddles.
Teemu Suninen temporarily took the lead in his FABIA R5 in action for a ŠKODA customer team Oreca. However, the Finn was forced to retire his car on the longest special stage of the rally (Terra Alta 1, 38.95 km), after suffering a defect. This dealt a bitter blow to his ambitions of winning the WRC2 title. After his retirement, the afternoon’s stages on drying tracks became a battle of the best times between the two works drivers Tidemand and Kopecký.
Last year, Tidemand and his team-mate Kopecký celebrated a one-two result in WRC2 category at the Rally Spain. A repeat doesn’t seem out of the question after the successful start.
|RallyRACC Catalunya – Costa Daurada 2016 – WRC2 standings after the Leg 1:|
|1.||Pontus Tidemand / Jonas Andersson
|ŠKODA FABIA R5||1:22:53.7 hrs|
|2.||Jan Kopecký / Pavel Dresler
|ŠKODA FABIA R5||+ 3.0 sec|
|3.||Julien Maurin / Valentin Sarreaud
|ŠKODA FABIA R5||+ 1:23.6 min|
|4.||Marius Aasen / Veronica Gulbæk Engan
|Ford Fiesta R5||+ 2:45.1 min|
|5.||Bernhard ten Brinke / Davy Thierie
|ŠKODA FABIA R5||+ 6:07.3 min|
The number of the day: 38.95
The longest special stage of the Rally Spain is 38.95 kilometres long stage called Terra Alta. Works driver Jan Kopecký and third-placed driver in the overall standings, ŠKODA customer Julien Maurin, managed to complete the first pass of this stage in exactly the same time. Both mastered the distance in their FABIA R5 in 27:20.2 minutes and in doing so shared the best time in the WRC2. Incidentally, a ŠKODA FABIA R5 topped the timesheet on all seven special stages on Thursday and Friday.