WRC A FULL 2016
An eventful day for Abu Dhabi Total WRT.
As the sun came out again in Catalonia, the Rally de España competitors tackled the first day of all-tarmac stages. The second leg served up plenty of drama for the Abu Dhabi Total WRT crews, but Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle managed nonetheless to move into the top five. Meanwhile, Craig Breen/Scott Martin lost a lot of time after having to contend with a mechanical issue on the first loop, but they stayed in the race, ending the day two places ahead of Khalid Al Qassimi/Chris Patterson.
RallyRACC Rally de España – Day 2
In contrast with the rainfall of the last two days, sunshine filled the Mediterranean sky when the cars left the Salou service park this morning. Despite damp patches remaining on the Vilaplana stage, all the Michelin drivers opted for five soft-compound Pilot Sport tyres, with the notable exception of Kris Meeke, who went with four hard tyres and one soft.
Kris started the leg strongly, missing out on the opening stage win by just two tenths. However, his time saw him close the gap to sixth place. By the end of this eighth stage, Craig Breen looked rather defeated: with a broken front driveshaft, the Irishman was forced to run the entire morning at a greatly reduced pace!
On the road section, Craig and Scott undertook some major mechanical repairs. This involved removing both of the front driveshafts, thus converting their WRC into a rear-wheel drive only car with somewhat unconventional handling! With little choice but to remain patient, the young crew made it to service having lost seven minutes and almost any hope of finishing in the points.
As for Kris Meeke, the rest of his morning was disrupted by a puncture on SS9. Forced to combine one soft and three hard tyres for the morning’s remaining stages, he had to contend with a less efficient car. Despite this, he still managed to set two top-five times and move up into sixth position.
Following the mid-leg break, everybody gained an extra place after Mikkelsen’s spectacular crash on SS12. On the same stage, Kris Meeke suffered a high-speed spin. He lost part of the front bumper in the incident, which in turn hampered the car’s aerodynamic performance quite significantly. Kris claimed a stage win on SS15 to stay in the top five overall, 38s behind the fourth-placed driver.
For Craig Breen, the afternoon went by without any major incidents. With a top ten spot now out of reach, the Irishman concentrated on trying to gather as much experience as possible for the 2017 season. He made it back to service this evening in 13th position, whilst Khalid Al Qassimi was 15th. On his first tarmac rally in a year, the Abu Dhabi driver improved significantly between the two loops and climbed three places during the day.
Kris Meeke: “This morning, I had a good rhythm but I picked up a puncture after cutting a corner. After that, I had to deal with an uneven tyre set-up. Some portions were also very dirty. This afternoon, I had a bit of a moment with a sixth-gear spin. I haven’t really managed many of the stages without any issues, but it’s up to me to eliminate these silly mistakes. Overall, it’s been a frustrating leg, but the positive is knowing that I can challenge with the best when everything is going well! That wasn’t the case a year ago, so we’ll have to take that into 2017.”
Craig Breen: “The day couldn’t have got off to a worse start, because we broke a driveshaft after two or three kilometres. After the stage, we removed both of the front driveshafts. It was a long and difficult job, so we picked up a penalty for arriving late at the time control for the next stage. After the mid-leg service, we just tried to learn the stages. It was difficult for us to commit as we were on our first high-speed pass when everyone else was on their second. It wasn’t a good day, but sometimes you need this kind of experience to appreciate the good times! On tomorrow’s final leg, we’ll be just trying to finish the rally well.”
Khalid Al Qassimi: “It’s been a pretty good day for me. I didn’t feel especially confident on the first loop, my pace notes weren’t perfect and there was a lot of dirt and stones on the road. I nonetheless managed to up the pace on the second pass, altering my driving style to use the car’s torque more rather than shifting through the gears. I’m pleased to have improved my times quite significantly. It’s not easy to come back to tarmac after a year away. The other WRC drivers compete at a very high level and they do a lot more kilometres than me on this surface. But I still love this rally!”
UNOFFICIAL STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2
1. Ogier / Ingrassia (VW Polo R WRC) 2:35:12.8
2. Sordo / Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC) +5.8
3. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:03.9
4. Paddon / Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:20.0
5. Meeke / Nagle (DS 3 WRC) +1:57.9
6. Østberg / Floene (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +2:35.7
7. Tänak / Molder (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +4:24.7
8. Abbring / Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) +6:22.7
9. Prokop / Tomanek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +7:13.3
10. Kopecky / Dresler (Skoda Fabia R5) +7:41.6
… 13. Breen / Martin (DS 3 WRC) +9:38.3
… 15. Al Qassimi / Patterson (DS 3 WRC) +15:48.7
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