Today was the Shakedown of the first rally of the year, and it produced quite a surprise. Young Belgian Thierry Neuville in the Qatar Ford World Rally Team Fiesta set the pace with a time of 2m 26.1s (although this number has varied from different sources, this is the correct time. WRC.com seems to have messed it up as well), ahead of second place Sebastien Loeb by 2.6 seconds. Then it was another Ford of Evgeny Novikov, a tenth of a second off of Loeb, followed by Hirvonen and Latvala.
The Top Ten fastest times of today:
1. Neuville. Ford Fiesta RS WRC. 2:28.1
2. Loeb. Citroen DS3 WRC. 2:28.7
3. Novikov. Ford Fiesta RS WRC. 2:28.8
4. Hirvonen. Citroen DS3 WRC. 2:29.4
5. Latvala. Volkswagen Polo WRC. 2:30.4
6. Ogier. Volkswagen Polo WRC. 2:30.5
7. Sordo. Citroen DS3 WRC. 2:31.8
8. Ostberg. Ford Fiesta RS WRC. 2:32.9
9. Kostka. Skoda Fabia S2000. 2:37.4
10. Wiegand. Skoda Fabia S2000. 2:37.5
However, these times shouldn’t be taken as a perfect representation of pace, seeing as the stage was run on a short, open field style course. Think of it as the Barum Czech rally in the snow, quite different from the narrow roads in the mountains that they will face tomorrow.
Here is a short review of the days action: