Loeb storms to Rally RACC lead after day 1


An extraordinary performance in the second loop through the three stages that formed the first leg of the 55 RallyRACC Catalunya-Costa Daurada, Rally de España 2019, placed Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) in the lead at the end of the day. Three different drivers had led the standings (Sébastien Ogier, Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo), during this first day. Spain’s Dani Sordo and Carlos Del Barrio lost the first position in the last stage, falling to the third position while Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul kept the second spot. That allowed Hyundai to place their three i20 Coupe WRC in podium position with two days on tarmac still to go.

Three stages formed the first loop that kicked off the 55 RallyRACC this morning. A total of 61 cars started this first day on gravel from the PortAventura World service park. In the short Gandesa stage, with only 7km and exactly the same as last year, Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) set the fastest time, ahead of the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC driven by Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio and Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul, while the provisional World Championship leaders, Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC), stayed a little behind. In fact, Ogier improved last year’s fastest time in the first stage, set by Tänak, by 3’’.

But in the Horta-Bot stage (19 km), a little shorter version of last year’s Pesells, Ogier had trouble with the power steering and finished nearly 45’’ behind Neuville, who took again the provisional lead of the race followed by Sordo and Meeke, both ahead of Tänak.

The third stage of the morning look and the longest, with 38.85 km and mixed tarmac-gravel surface, saw the third stage winner, as Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena were then the fastest, followed by Sordo and Neuville, all of them driving a Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. This result allowed Sordo to take the provisional overall lead at the end of the morning, despite a puncture during the last stage La Fatarella-Vilalba, followed by Neuville and Tänak, while Ogier kept having issues and lost his chances to fight for victory and, consequently, to be in the battle for the title.

The second loop through the same three stages confirmed the supremacy of the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRCs, with Sordo setting his fastest time of the RallyRACC in Gandesa and Loeb in Horta-Bot and setting the fastest time again at La Fatarella-Vilalba, which left Loeb/Elena as the new overall leaders at the end of this first day. The Hyundai were also showing their consistency with the three official cars in the first three places, as Neuville/Gilsoul and Sordo/Del Barrio finished second and third, respectively. The Spanish rider lost the lead in the last stage of the day when he finished 21’’7 behind Loeb, but all of them keep their chances to take the win, ahead of Kris Meeke/Sebastian Marshall and Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja.

Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia were able to recover and end the day in twelfth place, while mechanical woes left Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm’s Citroën out of the race in the fifth stage. The WRC2 Pro provisional standings are led by Mads Ostberg/Torstein Eriksen (Citroën C3 R5) while in WRC2 the first place tonight is for Pierre-Louis Loubet/Vincent Landais (Skoda Fabia R5 Evo).

Tomorrow, Saturday, the second leg will take place on tarmac and so tonight the setup of all the cars will need to be changed at the PortAventura World Service Park. The day will include 7 stages, with two passes through Savallà (14.08 km), Querol (21.26 km) and El Montmell (24.40 km) and the urban stage of Salou (2.24 km) will end the day, making a total of 121.72 km of a total 462.96 km.

Overall standings of the 55 RallyRACC after the first day

1-Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC), 1h.21’24”7
2-Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC), +1”7
3-Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC), +7”6
4-Kris Meeke/Sebastian Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC), +13”0
5-Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC), +21”7
6-Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC), +30”1
7-Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC), +44”0
8-Teemu Suninen/Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC), +51”8
9-Takamoto Katsuta/Daniel Barritt (Toyota Yaris WRC), +1’50”3
10-Mads Ostberg/T. Eriksen (Citroën C3 R5, WRC2 Pro), +2’59”8
11-Pierre-Louis Loubet/V. Landais (Skoda Fabia R5, WRC2), +3’14’’6


Words from PR, photos from Sam Tickell