Ogier Leads Neuville in Spain

Sebastien Ogier started the World Rally Championship's penultimate round in Spain by winning Thursday evening's opening stage to lead the rally overnight from Hyundai title rival Thierry Neuville. Ogier - who trails Neuville by seven points in the standings - completed the tight and twisty two-mile asphalt test in 3m35.3s, besting Neuville's time by a brilliant 3.7 seconds.

Neuville rolled on the pre-event shakedown, and thanked his mechanics at the end of SS1 for repairing his i20 Coupe WRC ready for the start. He will open the order on Friday, running first on the road in the rally's gravel phase, clearing a path for those behind.

Ott Tanak made sure all three title rivals were at the head of the order, the Toyota driver ending the stage just 0.5s behind Neuville. Hyundai's Andreas Mikkelsen said he felt "positive" as he took fourth, ahead of Ogier's Ford Fiesta team-mate Elfyn Evans.

Despite running well down the order and in the dark, while most of his WRC2 rivals had driven in the light, Eric Camilli was a stunning sixth on the first stage Volkswagen's new Polo R5 car has completed in competition. The ex-M-Sport driver has carried out much of the testing on the new car, and comfortably topped his class.

Dani Sordo returns for his home event after a lengthy absence in the Hyundai he is sharing this season with Hayden Paddon and took seventh, ahead of WRC2's second-place man Kalle Rovanpera.

Behind the 18-year-old Skoda Fabia driver, Craig Breen was the leading Citroen driver in ninth, as WRC2 champion-elect Jan Kopecky rounded out the top 10 ahead of Toyota team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Esapekka Lappi. Camilli's VW team-mate Petter Solberg was 15th in the second Volkswagen Polo R5 on his first WRC outing since 2012.

Nine-time champion Sebastien Loeb - making his third appearance of the year in a Citroen C3 - was 15.9s slower than Ogier and well behind a group of R5 cars in 27th, while Gymkhana star Ken Block ended the stage 26.5s down on Ogier but completed two more doughnuts than were required to delight the spectators.

Leading positions
Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1 Sebastien Ogier, J.Ingrassia M-Sport Ford WRT Ford 3m35.3s
2 Thierry Neuville, N.Gilsoul Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT Hyundai 3.7s
3 Ott Tanak, M.Jarveoja Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota 4.2s
4 Andreas Mikkelsen, A.Jager Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT Hyundai 5.6s
5 Elfyn Evans, D.Barritt M-Sport Ford WRT Ford 6.0s
6 Eric Camilli, B.Veillas Volkswagen Motorsport Volkswagen 7.4s
7 Dani Sordo, C.del Barrio Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT Hyundai 7.5s
8 Kalle Rovanpera, J.Halttunen Skoda Motorsport Skoda 8.6s
9 Craig Breen, S.Martin Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT Citroen 8.7s
10 Jan Kopecky, P.Dresler Skoda Motorsport Skoda 9.0s

26th October, 2018