Kris Meeke grabbed the lead of RallyRACC Catalunya – Rally de España in Saturday morning’s opening speed test as the switch to asphalt shook up the overnight leaderboard.
Cars had been transformed from gravel specification to low-slung asphalt racers for the final two days of action, and Meeke responded best by winning the El Montmell speed test by 3.6sec from Dani Sordo.
It propelled the Citroën C3 driver from third to first, with a handy 9.1sec advantage over championship leader Sébastien Ogier.
“It felt good. I had no asphalt test and I thought the car was perhaps a little bit soft. I had the wipers on full at one point as it was raining quite heavily. We went into a forest which protected us from the rain and when we came out the other side it had stopped,” he said.
Ogier was sixth fastest, the Frenchman complaining of understeer in his Ford Fiesta but having relegated overnight leader Andreas Mikkelsen to third by 0.5sec.
Like Hyundai team-mates Sordo and Neuville, Mikkelsen complained of understeer in his i20 and the Norwegian was only seventh quickest.
Second fastest for Sordo promoted the Spaniard to fourth, while Ott Tänak slipped to fifth, the Estonian also complaining his Fiesta would not turn in.
Neuville was fourth fastest to move up a place to sixth, but the Belgian was far from happy. “It’s understeering like hell. It’s undriveable and I have no confidence,” he said.
Mads Østberg went off the road near the start, the Norwegian sliding to seventh in the standings, just ahead of Juho Hänninen, who impressed with third fastest time in his Toyota Yaris.
Esapekka Lappi finished with the rear window missing from his Yaris, while team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala did not restart today after retiring yesterday with an oil leak following a big impact beneath his Yaris. The damage was too great to continue.