2019 Rally Spain: Loeb Leads as Hyundai Dominate, Tänak on Verge of Title after Ogier’s Problems

by Steven Batey

Sebastien Loeb leads a Hyundai one-two-three on Rally Spain as Ott Tänak closes in on the FIA World Rally Championship title after Sebastien Ogier suffered hydraulic problems early on Friday.

Loeb leads after a fine day for the Korean manufacturer – all three of its drivers won at least one of the stage and the Frenchman went on to set a dominating Vilalba 2 time that saw him jump from third to first ahead of Thierry Neuville, who must win this weekend if he’s to keep his championship fight alive and lunchtime leader Dani Sordo.

Behind, the championship is now seemingly Tänak’s to lose after Ogier, who had won the opening stage of the day, had a pipe became loose in the Citroen C3’s hydraulic system and he lost his power steering until midday service. After Friday, he’s down in seventeenth overall, over four minutes behind rally leader Loeb.

Ogier suffered a Power Steering failure. Photo Credit: Jaanus Ree/RedBull Content Pool

The leading trio are spilt by just 7.6 seconds with the leading Toyota of Kris Meeke in fourth, 5.4 seconds further behind. The Northern Irishman had a consistent Friday despite a scare on the opening stage and is in prime position to spoil Hyundai’s domination as the rest of the weekend and the change to asphalt stages begins.

With Tänak sitting fifth, behind is the third Toyota of Jari-Matti Latvala who improved on Friday afternoon after struggling on the opening trio of stages. He moved ahead of Elfyn Evans on the final stage of the day after the M-Sport Ford man limped out of the final test with a sick sounding Fiesta WRC.

Evans limped out of the final stage of the day. Photo Credit: Jannus Ree/RedBull Content Pool

Teammate Teemu Suninen and Takamoto Katsuta, making just his second WRC appearance in the fourth Yaris WRC this weekend, complete the WRC runners after Citroen’s Esapekka Lappi retired with engine problems making it an even worse day for the French team.

WRC2 PRO at the end of Friday in Spain is lead by a dominant Mads Østberg. The Norwegian won each of the six stages and has a huge 41.2 seconds advantage of Kalle Rovanperä with Skoda teammate Jan Kopecký 25.9 seconds further behind. Gus Greensmith suffered a puncture on stage three and dropped over a minute in lost time.

Østberg dominated in WRC2 PRO. Photo Credit: Jaanus Ree/RedBull Content Pool

Just 1.5 seconds separate Pierre-Louis Loubet and Eric Camilli, this weekend driving a Volkswagen Polo R5, in the WRC2 lead battle. Early leader Nil Solans won the opening pair of stages but suffered a double puncture on stage three and ended up out of contention as a result.

Third in class is Ole Christian Veiby, with the Norwegian leading Kajetan Kajetanowicz by 7.3 seconds. Another of the championship contenders, Nikolay Gryazin, completes the top five in the privateer class.

Rally Spain continues tomorrow, with stage seven, Savallà, set to take place at 9am local time.

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