KRIS Meeke edged home hero Dani Sordo to post fastest time in Thursday morning’s RallyRACC Catalunya – Rally de España shakedown in Salou.
PHOTO: Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool
The Ulsterman, driving a Toyota Yaris, was fastest by 0.3sec from Spanish star Sordo through the 2.0km mixed-surface Emprius test stage.
Meeke’s teammate Jari-Matti Latvala completed the top three, a further 0.4sec back.
The stage was split into a 1.0km gravel section before finishing on sealed-surface roads, representing Friday’s opening-leg dirt tracks which will be followed by two days of sealed-surface competition on the season’s only mixed-surface event.
The gravel remained wet and muddy following storms on Tuesday, which created flooding across the town. Times became quicker during the morning as sunshine dried the roads.
Thierry Neuville was quickest during the opening pass in his Hyundai i20 before teammate Sordo went fastest in the second pass. Meeke set the benchmark time in his third and final run. Teemu Suninen was fourth in a Ford Fiesta, ahead of Japanese youngster Takamoto Katsuta.
Championship leader Ott Tänak, who is bidding to clinch his maiden world title this weekend, completed the top six in another Yaris.
The Estonian cut a relaxed figure despite the media buzz around him.
“It’s just like another rally. For sure, there is pressure, but there is also no point in thinking about this. It might feel close but it is actually so far,” he said.
Following the downpours, organisers allowed competitors’ route note crews to drive the gravel stages on Thursday morning to provide updates on conditions.
“That was clearly needed,” said Meeke.
“After the monsoon conditions, we’re not aware of any stages where bits of the roadside may have fallen away or where maybe dirt has fallen into the road and tightened up a corner.
“We’ll have a lot better idea for our tyre choice and how we approach the stages.”
Shakedown top 10:
1 Kris Meeke(Toyota Yaris) 1min 31.6sec
2 Dani Sordo(Hyundai i20) +0.3sec
3 Jari-Matti Latvala (Toyota Yaris) +0.7sec
4 Teemu Suninen (Ford Fiesta) +1.3sec
5 Takamoto Katsuta (Toyota Yaris) +1.5sec
6 Ott Tänak (Toyota Yaris) +1.8sec
7 Sébastien Loeb (Hyundai i20) +2.0sec
8 Sébastien Ogier (Citroën C3) +2.2sec
9 Thierry Neuville (Hyundai i20) +2.9sec
10 Elfyn Evans (Ford Fiesta) +3.5sec