Rally de Espana: Qualifying stage:
Citroen's Sebastien Loeb was fastest this morning in the qualifying stage for Rally de Espana, the final round in the 2012 World Rally Championship.
Loeb completed the 2.94 kilometre Emprius de Salou test in 2 minutes 6.100 seconds, which put him 0.1 seconds up on Evgeny Novikov's DMACK tyres-shod Ford Fiesta RS WRC car. Loeb will now get first choice of start position for Friday's opening day, which includes two different tests on gravel and one mixed surface stage, Terra Alta - all will be run twice.
Mikko Hirvonen meanwhile was third quickest in the sister works Citroen DS3 WRC car, 0.2 seconds further back, while the Fords of Jari-Matti Latvala and Petter Solberg came in fourth and fifth respectively.
“I thought I was setting a good time, but in the end, as always, Loeb was the fastest!” Hirvonen lamented.
“I made a mistake and the back tyre slid out,” Latvala conceded, “but it was nothing important.”
“I had a problem in a corner [too],” Solberg added, "as I could not use first gear.”
Behind, Thierry Neuville rounded out the top six in his Citroen Junior WRT DS3 WRC, followed by local star, Dani Sordo, Ott Tanak, Mads Ostberg and Martin Prokop in positions 7 through to 10.
“I made a couple of mistakes, but with such a short stage that meant I lost quite a lot of time,” Sordo said.
Drivers will now select their start positions in a few hours time.
Rally de Espana then gets underway 'proper' on Friday, with SS1, the 7 km Gandesa 1 test, due to start at 07.45 hours local time (06.45 hours UK time).
1. Sebastien Loeb --- Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC -- 2m 06.100s M
2. Evgeny Novikov --- Ford Fiesta RS WRC -- +0.100s
3. Mikko Hirvonen --- Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC -- +0.300s M
4. Jari-Matti Latvala --- Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC -- +0.500s M
5. Petter Solberg --- Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC -- +0.800s M
6. Thierry Neuville --- Citroen Junior WRT Citroen DS3 WRC -- +1.300s
7. Dani Sordo --- Prodrive WRC Team MINI John Cooper Works WRC -- +1.400s
8. Ott Tanak --- M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC -- +1.500s M
9. Mads Ostberg Adapta WRT --- Fiesta RS WRC -- +1.600s M
10. Martin Prokop --- Czech Ford National Team Fiesta RS WRC -- +3.400s
11. Han Weijs --- Qatar WRT Citroen DS3 WRC -- +3.500s M
12. Jarkko Nikara --- Prodrive WRC Team MINI John Cooper Works WRC -- +4.200s
13. Chris Atkinson --- WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC -- +4.500s
14. Daniel Oliveira --- Brazil WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC -- +5.100s M
15. Abdulaziz Alkuwari --- Seashore Qatar WRT MINI John Cooper Works WRC -- +9.500s
16. John Powell --- M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC -- +12.300s M
17. Paulo Nobre --- WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC -- +15.000s
Citroen's Sebastien Loeb has decided to start 14th in the order on the opening day of Rally de Espana.
Loeb got first pick of position after topping the times this morning in the qualifying stage. The Frenchman opted to run as far back as possible so as to avoid having to 'swept the road', as most of the stages on the opening day are on gravel, with the exception of the long 44.02 km Terra Alta test, which is a mixed surface stage.
Evgeny Novikov, who was second quickest in the QS, followed Loeb's lead, and will run 13th in the order, with Mikko Hirvonen 12th and the Fords of Jari-Matti Latvala and Petter Solberg 11th and 10th.
Chris Atkinson will run first in his WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC car.
Rally de Espana: Day 1 (Friday) running order:
1. Chris Atkinson WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC
2. Daniel Oliveira Brazil WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC M
3. Jarkko Nikara Prodrive WRC Team MINI John Cooper Works WRC
4. Han Weijs Qatar WRT Citroen DS3 WRC M
5. Martin Prokop Czech Ford National Team Fiesta RS WRC
6. Ott Tanak M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC M
7. Mads Ostberg Adapta WRT Fiesta RS WRC M
8. Dani Sordo Prodrive WRC Team MINI John Cooper Works WRC
9. Thierry Neuville Citroen Junior WRT Citroen DS3 WRC
10. Petter Solberg Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC M
11. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC M
12. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC M
13. Evgeny Novikov Ford Fiesta RS WRC
14. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC M