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21 Oct 2016




Text and Photos: Reinis Babrovskis

The French duo of Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia were crowned the 2016 World Rally champions following yet another mind blowing performance at the Rally Racc Catalunya - Rally De España 2016. This was their fourth consecutive World Rally Championship title whilst driving for the the VW Motorsport team. 
Do you know the feeling when you are in love? You know the butterflies in your stomach, the feeling of happiness? Well, to me it is the WRC. There is something special about the rally, beyond words I can explain. It is the adrenaline, the speed, the cars and above all the atmosphere. WRC is my life. Reinis Babrovskis
Spanish rally is one of the most spectacular and iconic rallies on the World Rally Championship Calendar offering both gravel and tarmac stages. Rally Catalunya takes the drivers through the picturesque mountain roads as well as the iconic olive tree plantations. It is a rally that is loved by both drivers and rally fans. It has been 21 years since a Spaniard had won this event so all the eyes were on the local - Dani Sordo.


Round 11 of the 2016 World Rally Championship took the drivers to the Catalonian region of Spain on October 13-16. The Spanish rally was the only mixed surface rally on the WRC calendar featuring 19 stages that totalled 321,08km of gravel and tarmac. The rally launched on Thursday night with a spectacular street stage held in Barcelona. Friday tests were held on gravel roads, whilst Saturday and Sunday were 100% asphalt.


Nobody expected the rain at the Spanish rally, but it was there, and lots and lots of it prior to it. The standing water and slippery surface was an issue for the drivers on Thursday and Friday; however, the weather improved and Spain returned to become a lovely place yet again on Saturday and Sunday.


The HQ was located in the holiday resort town of Salou with the Service Park based at the PortAventura theme park. It was an amazing set up and will be even more impressive in the future when the Ferrari land gets opened on the doorstep of the rally service park.


Rally Spain is the only mixed surface rally; in other words, it is the only place to enjoy the rally cars in both tarmac and gravel spec. For the Thursday and Friday stages the WRC cars are set up for gravel running gravel tires, soft suspension and smaller diameter alloys, before the cars are transformed: lowered, set up for harder suspension and given a larger diameter brakes and alloys for Saturday/Sunday tarmac roads. This is the only rally where the mechanics have just 75 minutes to  replace hundreds of bits and completely transform the car.

The 2016 Racc Catalunya rally was extra special as many historic rally cars from older generations were present for the Saturday and Sunday stages, entertaining the crowds with their magnificent noise and sideways action.


Motorsport, particularly WRC is a very popular sport in Spain so there was no surprise that the Rally Racc Catalunya was followed by thousands of fans from both Spain and neighbouring countries; however, to my surprise it was the Irish rally fans that took over the mountains of Spain this year. Despite the torrential rain and hangover the Irish lads were on the stages supporting their drivers. 

Rally Spain is very easy rally to follow offering hundreds of great and safe spectator places; however, it seems the heritage of “good old day” of rallying is still present in Spain, as many spectators still enjoyed a “dance with the devil”.  


Following a very wet shakedown on Thursday morning the crews returned to Salou for the official rally start, before heading back out towards Barcelona.

The first stage of the Spanish rally took place on Thursday night on the iconic Montjuic streets. The same streets have also welcomed the Formula 1 cars here on several occasions. The weather conditions were still torrential and proved tricky for many drivers; it was the Estonian Ott Tanak who demonstrated the fastest time over the 3km stage, followed by Fuckmatie World Rally Team's Lorrenzo Bertelli and Sebastien Ogier in third.


 DAY 1

Friday featured 3 tests ran twice each. The morning started with the 11.17km Caseres stage, followed by the shorter 6.5km Bot and the monstrous Terra Alta measuring 38.95km.
Sebastien Ogier was first on the road and for him it was a pleasant surprise, as he was able to gain the most of the bad weather conditions.The local hero Dani Sordo pushed his Hyundai to the limits but was not able to match his times.

Friday's morning loop started catastrophically for the Kiwi man Hayden Paddon as the anti-lag of his Hyundai i20 decided to play up leaving him down on engine power and out of the battle for a good, strong performance here in Spain.
No luck for the Irish...Northern Ireland's driver Kris Meeke rolled his Citroen DS3 after a standing water paddle cause him to spin and hit a bank on a fast left corne, whilst Craig Breen was issued a time penalty following a late arrival at the start line. Kris lost 40 seconds, wing mirror and also hopes for a victory here in Spain, whilst Craig remained in the top 10 for now.
By the the second time through Friday's stages weather had dried up allowing the drivers to push harder. Some drivers might have just pushed a bit too hard; Belgium’s Thierry Neuville managed to go beyond the limits of his i20 on SS5, clipping a tree on the inside of a corner. Luckily the damage was only superficial and he was able to continue the rally loosing just 18 seconds after having to restart the engine. 

Same stage proved terminal to the flying Finish; following a minor touch with the barrier the suspension of Jari-Matti Latvala’s Polo WRC was damaged beyond the repair. He had to return under Rally 2 rules on Saturday. But SS5 wasn’t a disaster for everybody – Dani Sordo did a drive of his lifetime demonstrating a mind blowing time, taking out 16 seconds of Sebastien Ogier and jumping into the rally lead. With the roads drying up Sebastien was back to the road sweeping duties and just couldn’t match Dani’s time. At the end of Leg 1 Dani extended his lead to 17 seconds. Ogier’s closest championship Rival Andreas Mikkelsen was in third, 35 seconds behind the Spaniard.  


Saturday featured 8 stages on more than 140km of Cataluña tarmac: Vilaplana 6.28km; Alcover 9.93km; Querol 21.26, El Montmell 24.14; the day finished with the Salou city Super Special stage.

First stage of the day featured a twisty uphill dance on the asphalt in the morning Spanish sunrise. It was Sebastien Ogier than demonstrated the best performance of the morning.
Despite holding on to fourth place Thierry Neuville wasn't happy with his performance, complaining about an ongoing understeer/oversteer issue on his Hyundai i2, as well as admitting to a lack of concentration after a mistake in a pacenote. 

There was still no luck to be found at the end of the rainbow for the Irish crews as Kris suffered a puncture on SS10 and losing 30 seconds, whilst Craig Breen's driveshaft of the Citroen DS3 decided to to give up and throw him into a spin. Luckily both crews were able to fix the cars and continue the event.

Andreas Mikkelsen suffered a high speed accident on SS12 when the Polo WRC hit an armco barrier launching them into the air and into the tree, luckily the crew was ok. The crash not only destroyed their car, but also any hopes to catch Sebastien in the champion.
The French demon Sebastien Ogier was on a mission, reaching speeds of 191km/h and taking out seconds on the rally leader Dani Sordo with each stage. Following an amazing drive on SS13 Sebastien finally was leading the rally with a 4.2s lead. 
After an eventful day the crews returned to Salou for the final stage of the day. The city special stage took the cars onto the beautiful beach-side and further to the streets of Salou.
There is no better way to enjoy the stage than having a pizza, beer and cheering for your favourite drivers from the balcony of your apartment.

LEG 3 

Last day and last stand off battle between the Spaniard and the French. Was Dani able to take the lead back from the World Champion? Sunday featured 2 tests ran twice - Pratdip (19.30km) and Duesaigues (12.10km).

It was more bad luck for Kris Meeke on the morning's Pratdip stage. The engine of his DS3 failed just a few kilometres into the stage. 

The privateer Martin Prokop had demonstrated a good run and was 8th overall until that is he crashed into the armco. 

After a weekend of tight battle in the end Dani Sordo wasn't able to catch the World Champion and had to settle for the second place. A great result nonetheless. 

Power stage was won by the flying Finnish - Jari-Matti Latvala, followed by Sebastien Ogier and Dani Sordo.

Overall Results: 

Sebastien Ogier 3:13:03:6
Dani Sordo+15.6
Thierry Neuville +1:15:0
For full list of results and more info following the link:


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