Shakedowns are just that, shakedowns, an opportunity for crews and teams to make final changes to the car, test various tyre pressures, and get more familiar with the kind of conditions and terrain they’re about to compete in for the next couple of days. It’s hard to make any predictions and draw any conclusions based on shakedown results alone, because these stages are usually quite short, drivers can learn and memorize them and, well, there’s no pressure to actually perform and be prone to mistakes and such.
All that aside, it was a nice day for not only Jari-Matti Latvala, who claimed the top spot, but also for Dani Sordo, who is expected to deliver on tarmac. Spaniard was just sevent tenths slower than Latvala, so there’s little doubt that the conditions and the surface suit him nicely. We’ll see how that turns out tomorrow, though. Thierry Neuville was again very near the leaders, his time almost identical to Sordo’s. Seb Ogier wasn’t in the front when the session ended, but he was very much on the pace and is still a hot favourite. But, if we’re to draw some conclusions after the shakedown, even if we’re not supposed to, Ogier could be in for a fight this weekend. Perhaps it’s a bit silly to expect Sordo, for example, to be on the pace, but the guy actually is fast, he’s just having trouble demonstrating it in a proper way.
There is little to lose for some of the drivers, and we could see some very inspired attacks on the vineyard roads. My money would be on the Neuville and Sordo to deliver the most goods, but it’s a long, tricky and very demanding rally. Forecasting anyhing is like playing with the throttle as you sit at the red light. It sounds nice, but all it does is waste fuel. I’ll let the guys in racing overalls do the talking behind the wheel instead.
By the way, even though I firmly believe that gravel is The rally surface, there’s no denying rally cars look hot as hell in their tarmac specs; hugging the road, all wide and mean and ready to sprint. Love ’em.
1. Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen 2:23.5
2. Daniel Sordo, Citroen +0.7
3. Thierry Neuville, M-Sport +0.8
4. Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen +1.4
5. Evgeny Novikov, M-Sport +1.6