Meeke surges into Rally Spain lead

Kris Meeke has powered into the lead of RallyRACC Catalunya - Rally Spain as a switch to paved roads has shuffled the leaderboard.

The Briton took the advantage after the opening stage of the day and now heads Ott Tanak and Sebastien Ogier as the crews arrived back in Salou for the mid-leg service. Andreas Mikkelsen, leading last night, has dropped down the order, the Norwegian needing more sealed surface experience in his first outing in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC.

After an extended service last night, where the teams changed the cars from gravel to asphalt specification, today's route takes in two loops of three stages before concluding with a quick-fire run around the short Salou seafront stage. Meeke targeted the opener as the stage to make a difference and the Citroen driver was fastest, catapulting him from third to first with a 9.1 second advantage in this single stage.

"The car feels phenomenal!" he declared. Second- and sixth-fastest times in the following stages saw the Briton take a 13.5 second lead into the repeated runs this afternoon.

Unhappy with the feeling in the first stage, Tanak then made changes to the setup of the Fiesta and was able to move from fourth to second as many drivers around him suffered with understeer. The Estonian is however in the thick of a fight with Ogier, the teammates separated by just three-tenths of a second. The reigning world champion was just not on the pace this morning and had anticipated being faster over the fast and flowing roads.

Dani Sordo is now the lead Hyundai driver and hot on Ogier's heels, his new teammate Mikkelsen also only a handful of seconds adrift in fifth. The Norwegian dropped from first to third in the opening stage with understeer – something all three i20s have been affected by – and then fell further back to sixth before climbing a position as he continues his intense learning curve in the car.

Juho Hanninen, in sixth, has had a great morning with two stage wins in the Toyota Yaris WRC, moving himself from an overnight eighth. Mads Ostberg is down to seventh, an off in the opening stage not helping his challenge, but Thierry Neuville is the one to have fared the worst. The Belgian struggled with massive understeer in the opening stage and then started the third one three minutes late, having lost hydraulic pressure in the previous stage. He has dropped to eighth, seriously denting his championship challenge, and is nearly a minute adrift of Meeke's leading pace. Esapekka Lappi has had a good morning and the Finn sits ahead of Stéphane Lefebvre who rounds off the top 10.

Teemu Suninen continues to be the runaway leader in the FIA WRC 2 Championship, although after taking five of yesterday's six stage wins he is now conceding those fastest times to asphalt ace Jan Kopecky, who has moved up to second. The FIA Junior WRC Championship also looks to be provisionally sealed by Nil Solans. The Spaniard is second in the category behind Nicolas Ciamin but has taken enough stage wins to add this accolade to his FIA WRC 3 Championship title.

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