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9 Nov 2015



Text and Photos: Reinis Babrovskis  
It was huge celebrations for the Norwegian fans as the VW Motorsport driver Andreas Mikkelsen with Ola Floene in the co-driver's seat of the VW Polo WRC found themselves on the top of the podium for the first time in their career following Sebastien Ogier’s unexpected crash in the ultimate stage of the Rally Cataluña 2015.
Tears of joy from both crew members ran down their faces after they were informed of the retirement of the French teammate, Andreas later admitted though "it wasn't the way we wanted to win". Both Norwegians have been working very hard throughout the season, and it was about time to finally obtain the long awaited prize. It was time to fly the Norwegian flags high up, celebrate and enjoy the moment.
It wasn't just the drivers that should have celebrated: a huge round of applause was in order to all the hard working marshals, media, organisers and spectators that made sure the rally ran smooth and incident free. The recent motoring events have been overshadowed by tragedies, and knowing how popular the event would be, it was great to see everybody enjoyed the rally and remained safe.

"There is no rally like Rally Spain"



The penultimate Round of the 2015 FIA WRC Championship took place in the North East Spanish mountain regions of Cataluña. In the 51 years of running, Rally Cataluña has gained a huge reputation and has been one of the most iconic rallies, ranked alongside such classics as Monte Carlo, Finland and Portugal.
The 2015 FIA "Rally RACC Catalunya - Costa Daurada" was based around the holiday resort town of Salou, south of Barcelona. The service park was hosted at the Port Aventura theme park and featured lots of shopping stalls, cafes and bars.
The rally was made up of 3 Legs with 23 stages ran over four day period, between October 22-25. Rally Spain is unique as it is the only mixed surface rally on the calendar, the crews have to tackle harsh and loose surface gravel on Leg 1, whereas Leg 2 and 3 is full tarmac, making it the ideal event for WRC fans as one can enjoy 2 different rallies at the same weekend.
The crews have just 75 minutes after the first day of rallying to transform the car from a gravel to a full tarmac spec rally car, that means changing the brakes, suspension, transmission wheels and other few hundred parts, bolts and nuts; whereas for a typical mechanic this would require 2 weeks.
The Rally Cataluña was first run in 1957 and was included in the European Championship in 1975, and finally in WRC in 1991. First based around the Costa Brava in Lloret de Mar it relocated to Salou and Costa Daurada in 2002, where in 2010 it became the first mixed surface rally. Sebastien Loeb has dominated the rally and holds the record for the victories here.
Whilst WRC is a sport, for many it is a lifestyle. And here in Spain the atmosphere is fantastic. You gain new friends, share some of the best moments with them. It is a chance to get away from your everyday life and have an unforgettable weekend with your other family – the Rally family.
Whether one is here to support their favourite driver or just enjoy the atmosphere, it is a wonderful rally to visit and if you have never been to Rally Cataluña I can't recommend it enough. Every corner of each stage was filled with thousands of spectators, and yet the drivers still managed to find time to chat to them at the start or finish lines, provide some autographs or photos.This is why we love rally.
I love rally, I love all the drivers, but we all have our favourites, for me it is the Ulsterman Kris Meeke. His future in WRC, along the M-Sport drivers was still unclear before the the start of the rally, so we all have to patiently wait for the news to be revealed in the nearest future.
It was my first time at the Rally Spain, and yet again it proved that rallying is the best way to see a country - from beautiful villages to mountains and olive tree gardens, we saw it all. Rally organisers had chosen spectacular stage locations giving the drivers and fans an amazing scenery.


Shakedown was ran on early Thursday morning with the sun still behind the mountains. The short gravel stage ran in Salou and featured lots of hairpins, bumps and a very brief tarmac section.
After greeting some of the drivers we walked midstage to enjoy some action!
Once the stage was finished many fans, including us, returned to the service parks to continue the celebration of the start of Rally Cataluña 2015. After some beers, food and shopping we had a go on the VW simulators.
Friday gravel stages meant the leading cars would face the cleaning of the roads.
Dust is a major factor in gravel rallies and some of the drivers lost a lot of time where they had to drive blind.
And photographers didn't get it much easier.

LEG 2 and 3 

Saturday and Sunday stages were full tarmac with small sections of gravel; the cars were completely transformed overnight  to cope with the Spanish asphalt. The surface change turned out be a challenge for many drivers as some of the crews got caught out ending their rally as early as Leg 2.
On Friday evening the rally returned to Salou for a beautiful city super special stage located next to the beach. Thousands of fans gathered to witness the historic and modern rally cars sliding around the city streets.
Last day of the rally included a few shorter stages including the power stage. It seemed Sebastien had it in the bag until a disaster happened.
It was the ultimate Power stage that turned into a disaster for the 2015 WRC Champion as he made a small mistake that handed the victory over to the Norwegian team mate. It was time to celebrate.

How did the teams do


Lorenzo Bertelli had a weekend to forget. His Fuckmatie World Rally Team Ford Fiesta RS rally car span just metres into Stage 2 on Leg 1, followed by a roll just 2.8km further into the stage. Lorenzo returned on Leg 2 but he managed 4.8km before crashing into a barrier, this time the car was not repairable. His rally was over.


It seems the luck has still abandoned the Polish driver. Following some stunning stage times Robert encountered two punctures that finished the hopes of a good result in Spain. He maintained a great pace throughout the tarmac as well, but brake problems and yet another puncture cost him further minutes. A damaged gearbox and accident into a barrier on the last day ended his rally.


With the faith of the two M-Sport drivers for the 2016 still unclear it seemed both of the drivers were out to impress. Ott Tänak demonstrated a great drive on Leg 1 having recorded three fastest stage times ending his day third overall; however, the tarmac proved still too challenging for the young Estonian as he ripped of the wheel of his Fiesta RS.
Meanwhile Elfyn Evans struggled to set up the car that resulted in a poor performance as he only managed to claim 10th spot before crashing out on Leg 2. He was able to return but the damage had been done.


It seemed that Martin enjoyed the rally despite a faulty intercom, lack of grip on his Pirelli tires and a puncture. Martin had no chance of a great result, but he still managed to finish seventh.


It seemed the Ulsterman decided to approach the rally with care to impress the bosses and prove he can be a cautious driver if needed, it is just not his style to drive safe...He did lack knowledge of Leg 1 stages, but his pace improved. Kris would have finished fourth, but a spin on the final morning turned the tables and team mate Mads Østberg took the place. Mads managed to reel in a fastest stage time once, but a slow puncture upset his chances of a better result. Both Citroen drivers brought home the very needed points before the final WRC round in Wales.


It was a very hard weekend for the Hyundai's driver Thierry, first the news of being demoted from #1 driver to a support driver and then some stalls on the opening day, and a faulty transmission resulted into a crash in the penultimate stage.
Hayden Paddon demonstrated a great pace on day 1 matching the fastest stage time with Citroen's Mads Ostberg; however two punctures on saturday morning left the young driver in 6th position.
The local hero Dani Sordo tried his hardest to get to a podium finish in front of his home crowd fans driving his i20 to the limit. Following Seb's crash the risk paid off and the Spaniard finished third.


The rally was Sébastien's from the moment he left the stage 1 start line, but the bored Frenchman admitted "I wanted to have fun" and pushed the Polo WRC to the maximum on the final stage and crashed.
Jari-Matti Latvala was the only person to trouble Sebastien; however a trapped air in his brakes shattered his hopes of a fight. It took the Finnish driver 3 stages to bleed the brakes properly by which time he already suffered a broken wheel and puncture. He finished second as a spin let his team mate pass him on Sunday morning.
Andreas Mikkelsen started the rally on a slower pace; however a close battle with his team mate gave the Norwegian a challenge and he started pushing more, it payed off and once Sebastien crashed the first victory was his.


Pontus Tidemand

The swedish rally driver entered the rally maintaining the chances of the WRC 2 title if Al-Attiyah finished fourth or lower; Pontus pushed hard and lead the rally from Friday till the end, securing a great victory. His team mate Jan Kopecký finished 10.7sec behind Pontus in second place.


The multi-talented driver was third in WRC 2 class with just a stage to go; however the charging german Armin Kremer was cutting the gap with each meter, but the closure of the last stage due to Sebastien's crash meant he was safe and Nasser managed to secure the third place and with that - his WRC 2 title. Congratulations!

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