Kris Meeke wins RACC, Rally of Spain – WRC!
Rally RACC is the only mixed surface rally in the WRC calendar, which was first held back in 1957 and became part of the FIA European Rally Championship in 1975 before joining the World Rally Championship in 1991, when it was based in Lloret de Mar. The event was held in the Catalan region of Spain, on the coastal city of Salou, south of Barcelona. A move to Salou happened in 2002 and it was not until 2010 that the rally evolved into a mixed surface event run in the Tarragona hills. 11th round in FIA World Rally Championship, the event came after a six-week break, which was a bit unusual on the normal break between rallies in WRC.
Running on two different surfaces presents more challenges for crews and teams alike. After the first full day on the loose, teams must convert the cars from gravel to asphalt specification during an extended 75-minute service on Friday evening. Drivers quickly adapted their driving style ahead of two days on fast and flowing Tarmac roads, where management of tyre wear had become an issue in the varying temperatures, which were normally are higher than other events.
In the first day the fastest drivers, Sebastien Ogier, Thierry Neuville, Kris Meeke, Mads Ostberg, Andreas Mikkelsen, Ott Tanak, to a name a few, were strongest men in the battle. Andreas Mikkelsen who was the rally leader at the end of day 1 despite being in this his first competitive outing in the Hyundai i20 WRC, and was chased with a thin margin of 3 seconds by Ogier & Meeke.
All this changed by the end of day 2, with Meeke being the leader, Ogier & Tanak in second and third position. This went on with no major changes on the podium positions till the finish line of the rally. However, during the course of the rally, the title contender Neuville crashing out on the last two days that ended with no points to his title chase. His crash also affected Hyundai’s manufacturer’s title contention, leaving MSport to earn only 4 points in the remaining two rounds to bag it.
Mikkelsen also crashed out on SS12 damaging the steering, as he had earlier stated his minimal learning experience in an altogether a new car to him in the competition. Apparently, Sordo & Mads Ostberg too had retired at SS12 in close vicinity to Andreas, blaming a loose rock on the racing line. However, Sordo was the fastest in the Power Stage in the last day and took maximum bonus points, while
In the Toyota’s stable, Juho Hänninen was the only survivor in a commendable 4th position finish which was under a minute to the winner, while both his team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala & Esapekka Lappi retiring from the event. Latvala retired soon after SS5, due to mechanical issues after a hard impact on the underside of his Yaris WRC, and the engineers decided not to restart in the following day as it could have brought a terminal failure in the engine. Lappi had to retire on SS15 on the final day, as he lost his car’s control, went off the road and collided with the road-side barrier.
In WRC2 category, Finnish driver Teemu Suninen took the championship title with a rally win here at Rally RACC. Similarly, both the JWRC & WRC3 titles were taken by Nil Solans at the end of SS9, on Saturday.
With sparing lesser points to fight for the championship finale, crews and cars will now have to prepare for the penultimate event in the WRC calendar at Wales Rally, GB. See you there!