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    Cool WRC Spain Oct 22-24 talk/results spoiler**

    Next Round 12: RACC Rallye de Espana 22-24 Oct

    For many years Spain's round of the WRC was based on the Costa Brava, north of Barcelona. But that all changed in 2005 when the event moved to the other side of the Catalan capital to a new home on the Costa Daurada, where it's remained ever since.

    The event's nature hasn't changed much, however, with the wide, sweeping asphalt roads providing the fastest sealed-surface stages of the season. Racing driving techniques can pay dividends on the fast asphalt stages as drivers aim for smooth lines through the turns to maximise their speed.

    The event is based in the PortAventura theme park, in the town of Salou in the Tarragona region. It's extremely popular with spectators - especially the Spanish who were weaned on years of success for double champion and 26-times rally winner Carlos Sainz.

    New for 2010

    The penultimate round of the 2010 World Rally Championship, Spain is also the final event in the Junior World Rally Championship.

    Click: wrc.com/2010/racc-rally-de-espana/overview/


    Click: wrc.com/countdown/rally de espana


    Official Website: rallyracc.com/2010/



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    Kimi Raikkonen has made a shock early exit from Rally de Espana after he rolled his Citroen C4 WRC at this morning's pre-event Shakedown.

    The Finn was making his first pass through the three kilometre test stage which, like Friday’s opening day of the rally, featured a mixed surface of asphalt and gravel.

    Raikkonen was on a tarmac section when his car clipped a left-hand corner and ricocheted into a steep bank on the opposite side of the road. The car rolled at least once, picking up extensive panel damage before coming to rest on its wheels.

    Kimi and co-driver Kaj Lindstrom were uninjured the smash and managed to drive the car back to the service park in Salou. However an inspection by the Citroen Junior team revealed damage to the roof section of the roll cage, which means Raikkonen will not be able to start the rally.

    The exit is a disaster for Raikkonen who was expected to do well on the sweeping asphalt of Rally de Espana - the closest that world rallying comes to circuit racing.

    Before the rally, Raikkonen said: “If we can be near the top six then that would be great, but the main thing is just to get to the end. If you go like crazy on the first day and go off, then you don't learn anything. And that's why I'm here: to learn."

    Click: wrc.com/news/=13803

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    Three weeks after he clinched the 2010 drivers' title, Sebastien Loeb underlined his intention to keep on winning by setting the fastest time at this morning's shakedown test for Rally de Espana.

    The four hour test - a prelude to this weekend's rally - took place on a new 3km stage on the outskirts of Salou, featuring 2km on asphalt and 1km on gravel. Conditions were dry and sunny throughout, with the temperature peaking at 21 degrees Celsius.

    Citroen team leader Loeb completed four passes through the stage, setting his best time of 2m 08.6s on his final run. Fellow C4 WRC driver Petter Solberg was Loeb’s closest rival - the privateer setting a time 1.1sec slower. Ford Focus RS WRC driver Jari-Matti Latvala was one-tenth slower than Solberg to round off the top three.

    Citroen Junior Team driver Kimi Raikkonen became the first big name retirement of the event when he rolled his C4 WRC on his first full-speed pass, damaging its roll cage.

    Following Thursday evening's start ceremony on Salou seafront, the competitive action on Rally Espana gets underway at 0730hrs on Friday when crews leave the Service Park bound for the opening Terra Alta stage.

    Here are the Shakedown times of the leading WRC drivers:

    1. LOEB. Citroen C4 WRC. 2:08.6

    2. P. SOLBERG. Citroen C4 WRC. 2:09.7

    3. LATVALA. Ford Focus RS WRC 09. 2:09.8

    4. HIRVONEN. Ford Focus RS WRC 09. 2:09.9

    5. SORDO. Citroen C4 WRC. 2:10.1

    6. VILLAGRA. Ford Focus RS WRC 08. 2:11.2

    7. WILSON. Ford Focus RS WRC 08. 2:11.7

    8. OGIER. Citroen C4 WRC. 2:12.1

    9. TURAN. Peugeot 307 WRC. 2:14.3

    10. BLOCK. Ford Focus RS WRC 08. 2:14.5

    11. Al QASSIMI. Ford Focus RS WRC 08. 2:15.5

    Click: wrc.com/news/=13805

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    Cool

    Day 1



    Despite voicing concerns before the rally about the road cleaning effect on Friday's stages, Citroen team leader Sebastien Loeb completed the opening test 2.7sec quicker than anybody else to take the early lead of Rally de Espana.

    The recently crowned drivers’ champion was first through the 34km gravel and asphalt test in his C4 WRC and reported that road conditions weren’t as loose as he had feared. “It was a bit humid and maybe that helped, but I was flat out too. I have nothing to lose - this isn’t like fighting for the championship,” he added.

    Ford driver Jari-Matti Latvala was Loeb’s nearest rival, despite reporting a stall on the start line, loose gravel on the asphalt sections and difficulty finding a comfortable driving rhythm on the alternating surface.

    Citroen Junior team driver Sebastien Ogier was third quickest in a time 4.4sec slower than Latvala’s. At the finish control, Ogier was not happy with the amount of grip his C4 was getting in the conditions. “I have the wrong set-up, I must speak to my engineers,” he said.

    In similar cars, Citroen privateer Petter Solberg and Dani Sordo seemed to have similar problems. Sordo, one of the pre-event favorites for victory this weekend, was fifth fastest. “I need more grip. That was a really bad stage,” he said.

    Solberg said: “I tried but there’s no traction. That’s it. I’m not sure why but I have to do something.” He was sixth fastest, 20.5sec slower than Loeb.

    Munchi’s World Rally Team driver Federico Villagra lost time through the stage after hitting a rock and bending a steering arm. The Argentinean completed the stage 1min 14sec slower than Loeb.

    Click: wrc.com/news/SS1



    -------------------------



    Citroen privateer Petter Solberg was the fastest driver through Friday's second stage - the all gravel 14km La Ribera d'Ebre.

    The Norwegian, running fourth in today’s start order, completed the stage 1.3sec faster than his closest rival, fellow C4 WRC driver Dani Sordo.

    Solberg remained sixth in the overall standings 18.5 seconds adrift of rally leader Sebastien Loeb, who was third quickest through the stage.

    Sebastien Ogier had a lucky escape at the end of the test, when he slid wide through the flying finish, demolishing one of the yellow timing boards with his Citroen.

    Click: wrc.com/news/SS2




    -------------------------

    Sebastien Loeb was back to his stage winning best on the mixed gravel and asphalt of Les Garrigues - the third and final test of the morning loop.

    The Frenchman completed the stage 1.2 seconds quicker than his Citroen stable-mate Sebastien Ogier. Petter Solberg was third quickest.

    Heading to the midday service at Salou, Loeb’s rally lead after three stages and 62 competitive kilometres stood at 11.9sec.

    Click: wrc.com/news/SS3





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    Fri - Midday Wrap



    We're used to seeing Sebastien Loeb at the top of the time sheets, but the recently-crowned seven-time World Champion certainly wasn't expecting it this time, as he ran first on the road over a route that was mostly made up of gravel.

    “There was definitely some cleaning, so I wasn’t expecting to lead at this point and it’s a nice surprise to be in this position,” he said after winning two of the first three stages. “But it doesn’t change anything. I’m just driving at my normal pace and I’m going to carry on in the same way this afternoon. That’s still flat-out, but without taking any stupid risks. The fact that I’m champion doesn’t make any difference!”

    What probably helped Citroen’s superstar was the fog that hung over the first stage in the morning. Fog is always something of a psychological leveller, but this time it also had a physical effect. The moisture in the fog tends to bind loose gravel together, a bit like rain. This makes running first on the road less of a problem, as there is not as much loose gravel to sweep away.

    Sebastien Ogier, who started and finished the first loop of stages second, agreed. “The fog does make things quite unpredictable,” said the Citroen Junior Team driver. “I’ve got to take my hat off to Sebastien though. He did a great job this morning. And normally it should be a bit easier for him this afternoon.”

    Ford’s Jari-Matti Latvala completed the top three as the crews returned to the Port Aventura service park, meaning that the leading trio ended the first three stages in championship order. “I had a straight-on in the third stage,” reported Latvala. “When you have mixed asphalt and gravel stages like we had this morning, the braking is not always easy. You have to keep on adjusting your perceptions.”

    Petter Solberg complained of a lack of traction on the first stage, which cost him 20 seconds. He fought back brilliantly, winning SS2 to end up fourth overall. “The car was just a little too stiff, so we didn’t get the traction,” he commented. “It was a disaster on the first stage. There’s never a huge difference between a set-up that’s perfect and one that costs you time and unfortunately we didn’t get it quite right. But for the rest of the day we should be okay.”

    The expected charge from local man Dani Sordo failed to properly materialise: the Citroen driver is currently sixth but less than two seconds off fourth, such is the ferocity of the battle behind Loeb.

    “It’s not been easy,” said Sordo. “The asphalt parts of the road are extremely dirty because there are so many loose stones from the gravel section on the line. You have to be very careful and I prefer not to take too many risks.”

    The Junior World Rally Championship, which will be decided this weekend, is currently led by local wild card entry Yeray Lemes in a Renault Clio S1600. The title protagonists, Hans Weijs Jr and Aaron Burkart, are second and third respectively, separated by 25 seconds.

    Click: wrc.com/news/midday

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    A maximum push from second placed Sebastien Ogier on the repeated 34km Terra Alta stage enabled him to slash the gap to rally leader Sebastien Loeb from 11.9sec to just 3.4sec.

    With the earlier fog giving way to bright sunshine, conditions were hot and dry as drivers attacked the mixed surface stage for the second time.

    On a racing line swept by the whole 45-car field, times were noticeably faster on the repeat and Ogier’s winning time was more than 40 seconds better than his earlier attempt.

    “The feeling was much better this time and I had better grip,” said Ogier. Asked if he thought he could catch Loeb before the end of the day, Ogier replied: “I don’t know. I will push to the maximum and see.”

    Ford Focus driver Jari-Matti Latvala got nearest to Ogier’s time. The Finn was 3.6sec slower and reported that his tyres had started to go off in the closing kilometres. He maintained third place overall, just 4.8sec behind Ogier.

    Petter Solberg was third fastest with Loeb, reporting lots of loose gravel on the road, fourth. Mikko Hirvonen rounded off the top five times.

    Click: wrc.com/news/SS4



    ------------------------



    Petter Solberg repeated his earlier stage winning performance on the repeated La Ribera d'Ebre. But things were tight at the top of the timesheet, with the hard charging Sebastien Ogier only one-tenth slower.

    Sebastien Loeb was third quickest, to keep the overall lead by a reduced margin of 2.1 seconds. Ford drivers Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala were fourth and fifth fastest.

    Click: wrc.com/news/SS5




    ------------------------

    End of Day 1




    A fastest stage time on Friday's final stage means Sebastien Loeb will take a rally lead of 3.8 seconds into the second day of Rally de Espana.

    The Frenchman completed the repeated mixed surface Les Garrigues stage three-tenths quicker than fellow Citroen C4 WRC drivers Petter Solberg and Sebastien Ogier who were second and third fastest respectively.

    The result keeps Loeb first on the road for Saturday’s competition, which is based purely on asphalt.

    Click: wrc.com/news/SS6





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    WRC Friday wrap

    After 125 kilometres of competitive action on Rally de Espana it's situation normal - but not for all the WRC mechanics, who have to change their cars' specification from gravel to asphalt, at a specially extended service halt.

    Citroen’s Sebastien Loeb is in front with a lead of 3.8 seconds over the Citroen Junior Team’s Sebastien Ogier, but the older Frenchman said that he would have expected the situation to be reversed.

    It may be the truth, or it may be an intriguing element of gamesmanship towards his team mate for next year. “I really didn’t expect it to work out like this,” said Loeb. “In any case I’m in the lead, but it’s not much of a lead. We’ll see how it all works out tomorrow. Everything is equal really and now we start again from scratch.”

    In theory, Loeb’s first on the road tomorrow should give him an advantage over his rivals, as the stages will get dirtier as more mud and gravel gets dragged onto the line. But it’s not something that Ogier is particularly worried about.

    “Under any circumstances, catching Seb is going to be pretty difficult so I’m not worrying too much about road position,” he said. “The only thing I can do is limit the gap and try to take advantage of any opportunities that come my way. I know the stages tomorrow, so that could perhaps help me - but the same is true for Seb.”

    Ford’s Jari-Matti Latvala was regretting an incident on the final stage when he broke a wheel. He backed off, maybe losing five seconds, as he believed that the tyre was going to come off the rim. “I didn’t notice the small rock that broke the rim,” he said. “Afterwards I was convinced that the tyre would go down but in the end it stayed up. I’m happy, but I’ve had too many little mistakes like that today.”

    Another person regretting an earlier misfortune was Petter Solberg. The privateer Citroen driver lost 20 seconds on the opening stage, which if removed would put him less than three seconds off Loeb in second place. As it was, he ended day one in fourth.

    “It’s so frustrating,” he said. “As a privateer I’d say it’s impossible to win against the factory teams, so you can’t afford to throw away any opportunities. But we’re in the fight, and tomorrow is another day. Apart from the first stage, I think we’ve driven really well.”

    Read More: wrc.com/news/friday-wrap

    ----------------------

    JWRC Friday wrap



    Reigning Spanish Rally Champion Yeray Lemes enjoyed a near-perfect opening day in his Renault Clio S1600 on the Rally de Espana today.

    Lemes leads the category by 44 seconds, having won four of the day’s six stages in front of his home fans. Behind him, Dutchman Hans Weijs Jr heads up the Junior title race after the gravel section of the event.

    Lemes admitted he was delighted with his day’s sport, saying: “We haven’t really had any big problems at all today. The car has run well. We lost the brakes in the long stage in the asphalt section, but they came back and we haven’t had any problems with them since.”

    Despite losing the brakes, Lemes was still fastest through the 35-kilometre Terra Alta test by 13 seconds. Fired up by his lack of stopping power in SS1, the Renault driver took a second per kilometre out of the rest of the field in the second test.

    Weijs Jr won the third stage, the Citroen driver collecting fastest times at both runs through the Les Garrigues test. Weijs Jr’s morning was complicated by the gearshifter in his C2, which broke on the opening stage.

    “I had to use the other side of the gearshift,” he said. “The problem with this is that you pull towards you to go up the box and push it to go down. When I had to use the other side of the shift, it’s the other way around. I was really worried that if I got it wrong on an upshift, I could blow the engine.”

    That problem was fixed in service, but for the first two stages through the afternoon, he still had no answer for Lemes’ pace.

    Read More: wrc.com/jwrc/news/friday-wrap


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    Day 2



    While Sebastien Loeb kept a firm grip on the lead of Rally de Espana on Saturday's opening stage, there was high drama further down the order when J-WRC title hopeful Aaron Burkart tumbled out of the competition.

    Burkart, 28, began this final round of the Junior series with a seven point lead in the standings, and was on course to scoop the title before an incident fifty metres before the end of the 26km all asphalt Santa Marina.

    The German’s Suzuki Swift left the road on the final corner and tumbled down a bank. Burkart and his co-driver Andre Kachel were uninjured but their car was too far down the bank to get back on the road.

    “I was braking for the corner but we lost a front wheel. No wheel, no turning. So we went straight on. I pulled the handbrake but that was it,” explained a distraught Burkart.

    “I just don’t know how this happened. I’m sure I didn’t hit anything. Yes, we were cutting the corners - but no more than anybody else. I feel upset - on the edge of crying. Literally 50 metres before the finish and the wheel comes off. What can you do?”

    Burkart’s chances of winning the 2010 title now rest with his chief rival, Hans Weijs Jr who needs just seven points from this rally to secure the trophy. After SS7, The Dutchman lies in second place, on target for 18 points.

    Back in the WRC competition, Ford Focus RS driver Federico Villagra was also in trouble. The Argentinean Munchis team-leader lost more than a minute to the leaders as a result of an overheating engine.

    Click: wrc.com/news/SS7




    ------------------------

    Citroen Junior team driver Sebastien Ogier made a dramatic exit from the battle for victory on Rally de Espana when he crashed his C4 World Rally Car on Saturday's second stage.

    The Frenchman was lying second, 8.2sec adrift of rally leader Sebastien Loeb, heading into the 20km La Mussara stage, but went off 4km before the finish control.

    Ogier’s car collected right-hand rear damage in the crash, which is believed to have happened at a left-hand hairpin. It was more than 10 minutes before Ogier could get underway again - eventually getting his battered car to the finish in a time 15min 36sec slower than the stage winner, Sebastien Loeb.

    Ogier’s misfortune promoted Petter Solberg into second, 42.7sec adrift of Loeb, while leading Ford pilot Jari-Matti Latvala moved up to third, just 5.8sec behind the Norwegian. Loeb’s team-mate Dani Sordo is fourth, 12.6sec further back.


    Click: wrc.com/news/SS8




    ------------------------

    SS9




    ------------------------

    Sat Midday Wrap




    Sebastien Loeb extended his lead through this morning's opening loop of asphalt Catalunya Rally stages.

    The Citroen Total World Rally Team leader started the day with fastest time from second-placed Sebastien Ogier, allowing Loeb to further his advantage at the front of the field to 8.2 seconds. “The end of the stage was quite wet,” said Loeb. “We had to be careful. The important thing is that we beat [Sebastien] Ogier.”

    Ogier wasn’t entirely happy with his C4 WRC and was in determined mood when he arrived at the start of the ensuing La Mussara test. The Rally Japan winner was flying through the early part of the stage, but crashed off the road at the 16km point after mishearing a pace note and taking a left-hander too quickly. His Citroen collected right-hand rear damage in the accident, which cost him 15 minutes.

    That mistake from the younger of the two Sebastiens left Loeb with clear air between himself and the driver in second place. And that second place was taken on SS8 by Citroen driver Petter Solberg. The Norwegian dispatched Jari-Matti Latvala’s Ford Focus RS WRC on the opener and was, therefore, the chief beneficiary when Ogier’s big attack went awry.

    Solberg’s own morning hadn’t been perfect. “We had some problems with the tyres in the first stage,” he said, “then I made a mistake at the start of the second stage and I couldn’t recover.”

    Latvala remained third, playing himself into the super-smooth asphalt after yesterday’s gravel stages. The Finn was, however, well aware that Loeb’s team-mate Dani Sordo was fast recovering from a steady opening day - and now looming large in his rear-view mirror.

    The Spaniard arrived back in Salou just six seconds behind the Ford after Sordo posted second fastest times in stages eight and nine. “It’s better this morning,” said Sordo. “I feel well on the asphalt.”

    Not feeling quite as well on the asphalt was Ford man Mikko Hirvonen, who was Sordo’s first victim this morning. “The tyres were getting too warm in the first one,” said the slightly dejected Hirvonen, whose Ford ended the morning loop 12 down on Sordo.

    Matthew Wilson’s Stobart Focus rounded out the top six.

    The fight for this year’s Junior World Rally Championship took what could be a decisive turn this morning, when Aaron Burkart slid off the road at the end of the day’s opening test. The Suzuki driver was battling to move up the order from third to first when a front wheel came off his Swift and sent him down a bank.

    Burkart said: “Obviously, I am quite upset. We had a good stage, but now this. I didn’t hit any stones or anything. Okay, there were some aggressive cuts, but nothing too bad. I’m very disappointed.”

    Burkart’s demise plays into the hands of Hans Weijs Jr, who can now throttle back and cruise to the finish to collect the Junior title.

    Click: wrc.com/news/midday-wrap


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    SS10

    Dani Sordo lies tantalizingly close to third place on his home round of the WRC after setting the fastest time though stage 10. But he would have taken the spot had he not struggled to pass the ailing Ford of Mikko Hirvonen mid stage.

    Hirvonen’s car was slowed by a suspected turbo problem, meaning the hard charging Sordo caught it at the 12km point. Hirvonen was unaware of how close the Citroen was until he was given a few nudges on the rear bumper. At the stage end, Mikko apologised for the delay.

    Sordo headed to SS11 just 0.3sec behind Jari-Matti Latvala. The Finn, however, was feeling far happier with his Ford Focus after softer springs were fitted at service. Latvala also revealed that his car had incorrect damper settings for the morning stages.

    Sebastien Ogier completed in the third fastest time but remained way down the leaderboard after his earlier bid to catch Sebastien Loeb ended in a crash on SS8. “Now this is just a drive for practice,” said Ogier. “It’s a shame because I had a good feeling this morning. I was trying as hard as possible - I have no regrets.”

    Sebastien Loeb set the fourth fastest time to keep a comfortable 44.9sec rally lead over Petter Solberg.

    Click: wrc.com/news/SS10



    ---------------------



    Dani Sordo edged ahead of third placed Jari-Matti Latvala on the repeated La Mussara stage and also took a bite out of the gap to second.

    Sordo was just one-tenth slower than stage winner Sebastien Loeb to pull 5.4sec ahead of Latvala who dropped to fourth. The Spaniard now lies 13.9sec behind fellow C4 WRC driver Petter Solberg in second place.

    Mikko Hirvonen collected a 30-second penalty for arriving at the stage start three minutes late. The Finn was delayed while he re-connected a turbo pipe that had come off on the previous test, costing him around four minutes. He completed Stage 11 in the sixth fastest time - just 2.1 seconds slower than his team-mate Latvala.

    Click: wrc.com/news/SS11



    ---------------------

    End of Day 2




    Petter Solberg ended day two in Spain with a flourish, setting the fastest time through the repeated Riudecanyes test, to increase the gap between himself and the hard chasing Dani Sordo behind.

    Citroen privateer Solberg will start Sunday’s third and final day of the rally 44.4seconds behind runaway leader Sebastien Loeb but a useful 16.9sec ahead of Sordo in third.

    Loeb was Solberg’s closest rival through the 16km stage but a full 2.5sec slower. A delighted Petter said he had discovered the key to more speed and was confident of staying ahead of Sordo on Sunday.

    Sordo, who was three seconds slower though the stage, acknowledged that he needed to find more speed if he was going to complete a Citroen Total Team one, two tomorrow.

    Click: wrc.com/news/SS12




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    keep them fingers crossed Ken/Alex finish in top 10 and get there first wrc points
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    WRC Saturday Wrap



    During the second afternoon of the Rallye de Espana, Dani Sordo finally came alive: but was it too little, too late?

    For reasons that he could not quite put his finger on, the Spaniard was on strangely muted form until he made some set-up changes and attacked throughout the afternoon.

    He won SS10 and was just a tenth of a second slower than his illustrious team mate Sebastien Loeb on the following stage, to take third place from Ford’s Jari-Matti Latvala.

    There was no movement on the first two places though, with Loeb continuing to serenely lead Solberg on the final stages of the day with a trouble-free run. “It’s been a great day and we have a good lead,” concluded the Frenchman. “We’ve had some fun in the stages but we’re not taking any big risks.”

    Solberg said that he had settled for second after ending the day 44 seconds behind the newly crowned seven-time World Rally Champion. The privateer Citroen driver ended Saturday on a high by winning the final televised stage, but he has discounted all hopes of victory. “I’m not kidding myself,” said Solberg. “Second place is the best I can hope for here and actually if we do that it will be a very good achievement. But we have to keep trying, so I’ll be pushing until the very last stage. You never, ever give up.”

    A bigger concern for Solberg is Sordo behind him, who is aiming to finish second behind Loeb, thus continuing the pattern that has been in place on the Catalunya Rally since 2006. Sordo has not entirely seen off the threat from Latvala either, who is aiming to get back on the podium after losing his way slightly on the final 16.32-kilometre stage of the day.

    “The stage was actually better for me the second time round this afternoon compared to this morning,” said Latvala. “Unfortunately I made a mistake on the roundabout where I didn’t quite know where to go; maybe because there were so many people around!”

    But the situation was far worse for his team mate Mikko Hirvonen, who dropped time when a turbo pipe on his Ford Focus detached itself on the opening stage of the afternoon loop. The Finn lost more than 10 minutes on the 26-kilometre stage and held up Dani Sordo in the process, who reminded Hirvonen he was there with a timely tap up the rear bumper of the Focus.

    “I didn’t see him there and I’m sorry for that,” said Hirvonen. The Ford crew managed to reattach the loose pipe prior to the last two stages in order to keep fifth place, albeit a long way behind Latvala in fourth.

    The two biggest losers of the day were Sebastien Ogier, who ruled himself out of contention after deranging the suspension of his Citroen C4 WRC, and Munchi’s driver Federico Villagra, who retired after a fanbelt problem caused the water temperature to rise on his Ford Focus. Villagra is expected to restart under the SupeRally system tomorrow.

    Click: wrc.com/news/saturday-wrap

    --------------------

    JWRC Saturday wrap




    Despite only winning one of the day's six stages, Yeray Lemes still holds the upper hand in a titanic fight for this year's Junior World Rally Championship honours on the Rally de Espana.

    Winning the five stages Lemes missed out on has helped Hans Weijs Jr slash the Spaniard’s lead from 44.9 seconds to 14 seconds going into the third and final day of the Salou-based event. As expected, once the event hit the Catalan asphalt, Weijs Jr found an extra gear in his Citroen C2 Super 1600 and the Dutchman was on inspired form.

    The morning’s big news, however, was the demise of Aaron Burkart. Coming into this event, Burkart was seven points ahead in the championship, but his hopes of taking a maiden J-WRC title hang by a thread after he went off the road at the end of the opening stage.

    The German Suzuki driver was within sight of the finish of the Santa Marina test when a front wheel came off his Swift, leaving him powerless to stop the car ploughing off the road and down the bank. “I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I pulled the handbrake to try and get through the corner, but nothing. I didn’t hit anything. Okay, there were some big cuts in the stage, but I didn’t do anything differently, I didn’t hit the rock or anything like that. I’m so disappointed with this. It’s terrible.”

    Burkart is expected to restart tomorrow’s final day, but he will start in sixth place, while his main title rival Weijs Jr battles for the lead.

    Weijs Jr said Burkart’s problems would not alter his approach. “I have a plan for this rally and the plan is simple: to win,” he said. “I guess there might be more pressure now, but I can’t feel it. I’m not going to do anything differently, we’re just going to keep on pushing for the victory; we have to. If we get a puncture or anything, this could be lost. He [Yeray Lemes] is feeling the pressure for sure.”

    After a day of being hunted down, Lemes looked fairly relaxed. “It’s a big fight,” he said, “but maybe I should be running in the Historic category - this car was first used in 2004!”

    Lemes’ only problem came when he slid off the road momentarily on the day’s second test, but since then he’s been pushing his tired old Renault as hard as he can to try and stem the time loss to Weijs Jr - the stage win in SS10 earned him 2.5 back.

    Todor Slavov moved up to third after Burkart went out. The Bulgarian’s progress was steady throughout Saturday, but an electrical glitch with his Renault Clio didn’t help matters.

    Click: wrc.com/jwrc/news/saturday-wrap


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    Day 3

    SS13




    Dani Sordo's bid for second place on Rally de Espana got off to a good start on Sunday's opening stage when he narrowed the gap to the man holding the position, Petter Solberg.

    Sordo narrowed the gap from 16.9 seconds to 12 seconds through the 42km El Priorat test after a drive he admitted had been on the limit. But having covered almost half of today competitive distance, the Spaniard acknowledged he was running out of time to catch Petter.

    “We got the best time in there, so that’s okay, now we have the small one to come. Maybe we can make a little bit more there - let’s see,” he said.

    Solberg completed the stage without any problems, but ruing a careful approach. “I was too quote cautious with the tyres,” he explained. “I was too concerned about not overdoing it early in the stage.”

    Jari-Matti Latvala began the day fourth, 10 seconds behind Sordo. At the end of the stage however that gap had increased to 28.5sec and Latvala said his podium fight was over.

    J-WRC leader Yeray Lemez stopped 9km into the test. The Spaniard managed to get his Renault to the end of the stage but dropped to second in the Junior classification, 1min 57sec behind the new leader - and now title favourite - Hans Weijs.

    Ford Focus RS WRC driver Frigyes Turan retired after going off the road 2km from the start line. The Hungarian privateer had been seventh overall.

    Click: wrc.com/news/SS13





    --------------------



    Dani Sordo got another step closer to second place on Stage 14, when another fastest time enabled him to trim Petter Solberg's advantage to 10.8 seconds.

    Sordo was 1.2sec quicker than the Norwegian through the short La Serra d'Almos, to set up a thrilling fight over the two stages which remain today.

    Rally leader Sebastien Loeb completed the stage in the second-fastest time, to return to midday service with a comfortable rally lead of 44.6sec.

    Eleventh placed Sebastien Ogier completed the stage with his car sporting right-hand front suspension damage. Ogier and his co-driver stopped shortly after the finish control to make emergency repairs to a failed damper top mount.

    Click: wrc.com/news/SS14




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    Midday wrap



    Citroen's superstar Sebastien Loeb said that his objective was just to get to the end of today's four stages on the Rallye de Espana without any heroics.

    Instead, the man who had it all to do was his team mate Dani Sordo - and even then it was going to be a fight for second place rather than overall honours.

    For Dani, it would be a case of deja-vu if he managed it, because he’s been second to Sebastien Loeb every year since 2006: a somewhat demoralising situation. But the Spaniard is feeling upbeat after winning both of this morning’s two stages.

    “If your team mate is Sebastien Loeb, you have to accept that it is going to be really tough,” said Sordo. “He’s just so good everywhere. But I’m pushing as hard as I can. Once the tyres warmed up, I got plenty of good grip and I felt comfortable with the car.”

    Sordo started the day with a 16-second deficit to claw back from Petter Solberg; he grabbed five of them on the first stage alone and followed that up by taking another 1.2 seconds on SS14 before service at the Port Aventura theme park. He now has 10.8 seconds to make up to Solberg in the 46 competitive kilometres that remain.

    The Ford drivers had a muted start to the final day, with Jari-Matti Latvala falling back from the battle for the podium after stopping the clocks 18 seconds slower than Sordo on the opening stage. “I knew from the beginning that we didn’t have many possibilities to get in front of Sordo today, but I still don’t know exactly why we are lagging behind,” he reported.

    The other Ford of Mikko Hirvonen had nothing to gain in a lonely fifth, with a five-minute deficit to his team mate following a turbo pipe problem yesterday. Nonetheless, he remained ahead of Stobart-Ford’s Matthew Wilson, who was also unchallenged in sixth. “I made a few changes to the differential, but it didn’t work as we expected,” he said. “I didn’t really enjoy the second short stage.”

    Behind him was Hungarian privateer Frigyues Turan, on his first rally in a Ford Focus WRC, but he crashed heavily 40 kilometres into the opening stage of the day, unfortunately breaking his collarbone.

    The Citroen Junior Team’s Sebastien Ogier is on a mission to finish 10th and claim a solitary driver’s point, after breaking his front suspension yesterday against a guardrail. So far he faces an uphill struggle, lying 11th overall with 54 seconds separating him from a points finish.

    Local man Yeray Lemes lost the Junior World Rally Championship lead after picking up a puncture on the first stage this morning in his Renault Clio S1600, which he was forced to stop and change for more than two minutes. Hans Weijs Jr took over the lead in his Citroen C2 S1600 and is still on track to lift the title.

    Conditions remain dry and warm as the drivers head off for the final two stages before the finish at 1500hrs.

    Click: wrc.com/news/midday-wrap

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    SS15



    While Sebastien Loeb continued his faultless drive at the head of the field, the battle for second got even closer on the penultimate test of Rally de Espana - with Dani Sordo closing the gap on Petter Solberg to just 5.1 seconds.

    With just the 4.11 kilometre repeat of La Serra d’Almos to go, even Loeb said he was following the battle behind him via the split times beamed to his car.

    “Exciting eh?” agreed Petter as he arrived at the finish control. “But I didn’t take any risks or cuts in there. I could have gone harder but I followed Dani's splits very closely and I just wanted to be smart.”

    Sordo was shaking his head as he arrived at the finish. “I tried really, really hard but it’s impossible, I think,” he said. “Now there’s only four kilometres to go. But of course I will try.”

    Meanwhile, the title battle in the Junior World Rally Championship took another dramatic twist. Class leader after SS14 Hans Weijs Jr stopped mid stage, losing more than 11 minutes and dropping to third place. His title rival Burkart meanwhile moved ahead of Briton Harry Hunt into fourth. If the positions stay as they are, Burkart will be crowned Junior champion.

    Click: wrc.com/news/SS15



    --------------------

    SS16 - End of Day 3


    Three weeks after clinching this year's drivers' World Championship, Citroen C4 WRC driver Sebastien Loeb has won the Rally de Espana - adding another victory to his record breaking tally.

    Today’s win was the 61st at World Championship level for the Frenchman and his co-driver Daniel Elena.

    The pair led the rally from beginning to end, eventually finishing 35.3 seconds ahead of the man in second place, Citroen privateer Petter Solberg.

    Solberg worried that sliding wide on a corner in the final stage had dropped him behind the hard charging Dani Sordo, but in the end the Spaniard had to settle for third, 5.8 seconds back, to complete an all Citroen podium.

    Ford works team driver Jari-Matti Latvala finished fourth, 38.4sec behind Sordo, while his team-mate Mikko Hirvonen completed the top five places.

    On this last asphalt rally for the current specification World Rally Cars, Loeb completed a perfect record for the Citroen C4, which has been unbeatable on WRC asphalt since it was introduced in 2007.

    Click: wrc.com/news/SS16





    Congrats to Ken/Alex on finishing 9th and getting there first wrc points

    --------------------

    WRC Standings: wrc.com/WRC Standings

    --------------------

    Final Round - Wales Rally GB - Nov 11-14




    First run in 1932, the Rally of Great Britain is one of the oldest rallies in the world and was known for many years as the RAC Rally. The event has been a qualifying round of the WRC every year since the series was established in 1973.

    From its early beginnings as a national event that roamed around the country and included stages in the North-East, Scotland, the Lake District, the North-West and the Midlands, the action, particularly since 2000, has been focussed on Wales.

    The gravel forest stages of south and mid-Wales are fast and flowing and, when wet, can become as slippery as any in the world. And in a country famed for its lush greenery, rain, and lots it, is always a possibility. As well as the forestry roads, the event features stages on exposed military land to the north of Brecon, which are prone to fog. Accurate pace notes are essential throughout.

    As it has in recent years, the Welsh capital Cardiff hosts the ceremonial start and the finish, as well as the Service Park - which moved from Swansea to Cardiff Bay for the first time in 2009.

    Official Website: walesrallygb.com/home



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    Newly-crowned seven-time World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb clocked up his 61st career victory in Spain, an event that he led from start to finish.



    During the final afternoon, Loeb set a fifth-fastest time on SS15 and a sixth-quickest time on SS16: a sign of just how much he had backed off in order to secure a solid finish.

    In the end he had an untroubled run to the top step of the podium, claiming victory by 35.3 seconds over Petter Solberg. Loeb also sealed a remarkable record for the Citroen C4 WRC, which will retire from service at the end of this year having never been beaten on asphalt throughout its four-year career.

    “It was another very good result for us in Spain and I’m very happy,” said Loeb. “We had no pressure for the championship on this event, so we were just able to drive as we wanted. We pushed hard on the gravel on Friday and from then it was a little bit easier to control the advantage.”

    The real fight was behind him, with a tense battle between Dani Sordo and Petter Solberg for second place throughout the final day. Solberg was quickest through the last stage, beating Sordo by just 0.7s, to claim the runner-up spot by 5.8s at the finish.

    “I went really sideways on the final stage: maybe too much,” said Solberg. “I wasn’t sure if I could do it. This means so much to me to beat the factory cars because our car really isn’t the same.”

    Sordo soon put the disappointment of being beaten on home territory behind him, having fought his way back from sixth place at one point to the podium. “I think I was trying a bit too much,” he concluded. “But today has been a really nice day. I’m very grateful to all the spectators: I got a lot of support and so this third place is for everyone who came out to watch.”

    Jari-Matti Latvala set exactly the same time as Sordo on the short final stage but ended up nearly 40 seconds behind his Spanish rival in fourth. Having fought for a podium place for most of the rally, the Finn was pleased with his continuing progress on asphalt.

    “I’m finally finding the relaxed feeling that I need on asphalt,” said the Ford driver. “Since I drove at the Nurburgring 24 Hours earlier this year I’ve felt a lot more confident on sealed surfaces.”

    Latvala finished more than five minutes ahead of his team mate Mikko Hirvonen, who lost time with turbo pipe problems yesterday. Hirvonen had a clean run through the final day, but is already looking to the future and Rally Great Britain. “We’ve got to try and win there,” said Hirvonen. “This year hasn’t always gone the way we wanted it to, so a win in Britain would be the best way to end it.”

    Sebastien Ogier achieved his goal of claiming 10th and the final drivers’ point just behind the Monster World Rally Team’s Ken Block who collected the first WRC points of his career.

    Click: wrc.com/news/wrc-wrap

    --------------------

    JWRC wrap


    When he woke up this morning there was hope, but mostly despair for Aaron Burkart. This evening, he's in the bar as a world champion after rallying delivered another stunning twist.



    Burkart dutifully restarted this morning, knowing full well that he needed some sort of drama to hit Hans Weijs Jr’s Citroen C2 S1600. But nobody really expected it. Certainly not the Dutchman.

    Weijs Jr was focused on getting past long-time Junior leader and local ace Yeray Lemes. He managed that in the first run at the 42-kilometre El Priorat stage, when the leader suffered a puncture. “It’s really disappointing,” said Lemes. “We were going to push so hard to try to stay in the front. The puncture cost me two minutes, it’s not so nice. We will carry on, we want to finish the rally, we had so many retirements this season.”

    Second place appeared to beckon for Lemes, with Weijs Jr now out front and controlling proceedings perfectly. Until the return to El Priorat, when the C2 cut out and remained silent. Weijs Jr could scarcely believe it. Almost within sight of the finish, his nightmare had come true. The crank sensor had failed in the car. He managed to replace it, but 13 minutes had passed.

    And so had Burkart. Understandably, things went a little bit loopy inside the Suzuki. “I can’t believe it!” he said at the end of the stage. “It’s incredible. I saw Hans in there, everything was going mad in my mind. In the end, it ain’t over ’til it’s over. That’s a very bad saying, but it’s true. Of course at the moment, it’s crazy. It’s for me, it’s amazing. It’s a crazy weekend. We crash the car on Monday [in the test], the guys have a lot of work to do and then we retire on Saturday. It’s been a crazy weekend.”

    Weijs Jr could hardly find the words to describe his feelings. He said: “I just had to fix the car, the sensor and drive. I did my best to keep the car running. Now, it’s like this. I just hope somebody will invest in me for next season.”

    The results for this event will reveal a Lemes win by five minutes from Todor Slavov’s Renault, with Weijs Jr third and Burkart fourth. But those results will not nearly tell the incredible tale of the rally.

    Lemes was an emotional winner, saying: “This is a fantastic result for me. It’s been a long year, but I have learned so much. I am sorry for Hans [Weijs Jr] and congratulations to Aaron [Burkart] . What a rally!” What a rally indeed.

    Click: wrc.com/news/j-wrc-wrap


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    Cool

    Not for the first time, 'gymkhana' legend Ken Block says that he is "stoked" - this time after becoming only the second American to score World Rally Championship points after John Buffum, who last took a point on the 1988 Olympus Rally in the United States.



    Block’s ninth place finish netted him the first two points of his World Rally Championship career, and the 42-year-old believes that this could be the springboard to more success in the future.

    Block’s final outing of the year, which will also be the last event for his Ford Focus WRC, is the Rally Great Britain from November 12-14.

    The Monster World Rally Team driver had to fend off a recovering Sebastien Ogier on the final day, who was making his way back up the field after breaking his suspension on day two.

    “I knew with Ogier trying to hunt us down, we couldn’t continue with our day two pace. We had no choice but to step it up,” added Block - who eventually beat the Frenchman by 1m22s. On the second day in Spain, Block lost four minutes after going off into a field: without that incident he could have finished seventh.

    Having secured his best result of the season on asphalt, Block is convinced that he can do even better on gravel.

    “While our speed is starting to improve on tarmac, we still have very few sealed surface miles under our belt and are only at the beginning of our development phase on paved stages,” he pointed out. “So we are still most confident on dirt.”

    “Even though it may have taken a few more rallies than I would have liked, I am super stoked on our result in Spain, and I am happy this first hurdle of earning WRC points is now behind us,” said Block.

    Click: wrc.com/news/=13864

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