PREVIEW: 2016 Rally Catalunya – Rally de España: Ogier’s fourth WRC title wait could be over in Salou

by Umar Hassan

It’s been two weeks since Tour de Corse, as the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship heads to the only mixed surface rally of the season at the 2016 Rally Catalunya – Rally de España.

Rally Catalunya is unique in terms of the fact that it’s the only WRC rally of the season to be held on both gravel and asphalt.

This iteration of the mixed gravel/asphalt rally came into the WRC calendar in 2010. The opening day consists of gravel stages before the cars are changed in the service park for two days of continuous running on the asphalt.

It will be the sixth year that this mixed surface setup at Rally Catalunya has been used, which makes it an interesting challenge for the teams and crews.

Who leads the Drivers’ Standings Pre-Rally Catalunya?

Credit: @World Photography/Red Bull Content Pool

Credit: @World Photography/Red Bull Content Pool

By virtue of his first-ever win on the Corsican asphalt, Sébastien Ogier leads the Drivers’ Standings by 68 points of his Volkswagen team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen in second.

Third, fourth and fifth places remain unchanged post-Tour de Corse Drivers’ Standings as the Hyundai duo of Thierry Neuville and Hayden Paddon are third and fourth respectively.

Jari-Matti Latvala is out of contention for the 2016 WRC title in fifth in the third Volkswagen, while the third Hyundai of Dani Sordo is sixth.

Mads Østberg is seventh for M-Sport, 26 points behind the eighth-placed Citroën of Kris Meeke.

DMACK World Rally Team’s Ott Tänak and the second Citroën of Craig Breen complete the top ten in the Drivers’ Standings Pre-Rally Catalunya.

Mikkelsen comes back to the site of his maiden WRC win

Credit: Daniel Roeseler/Volkswagen Motorsport

Credit: Daniel Roeseler/Volkswagen Motorsport

Andreas Mikkelsen claimed his maiden World Rally Championship win last year at Rally Catalunya.

Mikkelsen, who claimed his first WRC win on the mixed surface stages in Salou, capitalised on his team-mate Sébastien Ogier’s crash on the final stage in 2015 to claim a shock victory.

The Norwegian knows that this is a big rally in the fight to keep his World Rally Championship hopes alive and nothing less than a win or Ogier to have some misfortune is what Mikkelsen needs to aim for at Rally Catalunya.

Second time lucky for a fourth WRC title for Ogier?

Credit: Helena El Mokni/Volkswagen Motorsport

Credit: Helena El Mokni/Volkswagen Motorsport

After failing to win his fourth World Rally Championship in a row, Sébastien Ogier is hoping that his second attempt to become a four-time World Rally Champion comes true come Sunday 16 October 2016.

Ogier, who needs to finish third or better, as well as win the rally-ending Power Stage will be enough for the Frenchman to claim his fourth World Rally Championship in four years.

Last year, a rare mistake on the final stage of the rally after leading in Catalunya, leading to a massive crash, meant that Ogier lost the rally win with only less than four kilometres from the finish.

This time, the Volkswagen driver will be hoping for no final stage dramas as he aims to join the likes of Juha Kankunnen and Tommi Mäkinen as a four-time World Rally Champion.

Could Neuville stay in the championship hunt post-Catalunya?

Credit: Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

Credit: Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

Thierry Neuville, who is the dark horse for the 2016 World Rally Championship, could throw himself into the mix for the championship if results go his way in Salou.

Neuville has it all to do on the mixed surface stages at Rally Catalunya, as the Hyundai driver must win and hope the top two in the Drivers’ Standings (Ogier and Mikkelsen) falter to keep the Belgian’s championship bid alive.

An eighth place at last year’s rally means that Neuville will need to keep his run of good form going into the final three rounds of the 2016 World Rally Championship if he is to keep his championship hopes alive.

The 2016 edition of Rally Catalunya – Rally de España begins on Thursday with the rally-opening stage, beginning in Barcelona at 18:06pm (Spanish time), 17:06pm (UK time).

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