After the opening day of the final round of the WRC season, Mads Ostberg leads the rally by a mere margin of 27.2s to Loeb, who is in the second and Jari-Matti Latvala in third with 47s down the leader. It was an exciting rally for the finishers and dreadful for the retiree's as they had to deal with the gremlins of the dual surface rally, topped up with rain, mud & muck apart from the horrifiying rocks unevenly lining the side of the stages. In the second stage itself there were 3 retirements, with Thierry Neuville, Petter Solberg, & Andreas Mikkelsen perfectly clipping the same rock to knock out the wheels off their respective cars. The retirement drama continued till SS5, while SS6 being just 2kms long within the city did give the safe half of the WRC drivers to a safely finishing the day & bringing their cars to the service park in good shape.
Day 2 & 3 is altogether an asphalt rally & needs a complete changeover from the Day 1's gravel spec to asphalt spec, which is also regulated & has to be done in just 75minutes. So it will be a sleepless night for the service crew as they not only have to change the specs of the running cars, but also they have to fix the damages of the retired cars which will be running in Rally2 format coming morning.
As far as the rally is shaping up, Mads Ostberg will have to put up a masterpiece of driving to keep his position, as the all-asphalt attack will be on charge behind him the next stage onwards. It will be an advantage to be first on the road on the tarmac stages as it will have cleaner surface without any mud/gravel drawn by the rally cars & hope the young Norwegian gets the necessary luck & rhythm to do it right. "I'm very happy with how today has gone. Maybe it will be difficult to keep Sebastien Loeb behind me but tomorrow is a new day so we will see," says Ostberg at the end of the stage.
Day 1 leaderboard after SS6 is as below.
Day 1 - Action