The Citroën crew dominating the day to claim the win by 28 seconds. Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia took an important step towards a fifth world title by finishing second, and third position by teammates Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja moves the Estonians ahead of the only other Championship contender, Thierry Neuville.
The Belgian suffered a grim weekend and ended up retiring today, a potentially terminal blow to his hopes of a maiden title.
“It’s been an exceptional weekend,” said Meeke. “It’s not about how many times you get knocked down, but it’s about how many times you get back up. And I’ve had to do that a few times in my career, let me tell you. We always knew this car was terrific on asphalt. This result goes to show that. It gives us all in the team a huge confidence boost.”
With two rounds remaining in Great Britain and Australia, the titles are now heading towards their climax. With additional points in the Power Stage, Ogier takes a 37-point lead over Tänak into Wales Rally GB with Neuville just one point further behind the Estonian. In the Manufacturers’ Championship, second and third for M-Sport gives the British team a significant boost and it needs to claim just four points to take the win on home soil.Sunday’s route took in six stages and 74.26 competitive kilometers, all without service. Meeke drove faultlessly throughout, winning five of the six tests to take his fifth world rally victory during a difficult season for the team.
Once Neuville had retired after clipping a rock and damaging the suspension and steering, Ogier focused on getting to the finish without risk.
Tänak, who has been running the last two asphalt days with a gravel specification gearbox, didn’t really have the tools to push harder but was delighted to overhaul Neuville in the Championship standings, the Estonian going into the event claiming that he was never going to give up while he had a mathematical chance of winning.
Behind the leading trio, Juho Hänninen has had a great rally and was the only Toyota driver to finish after team-mate Esapekka Lappi retired today when he hit a barrier. Mads Østberg also enjoyed his first outing in the 2017 WRC car on asphalt, learning all the way and loving the experience.
Sixth position for Stéphane Lefebvre ensured Citroën scooped the most Championship points in Spain, and Elfyn Evans, in seventh, will be pleased to move back to gravel after a difficult hot tarmac event on his DMACK tires.
Rally 2 returnees Dani Sordo and Andreas Mikkelsen completed the day, Sordo was on fine form and finished 15th overall with Mikkelsen three places behind.
Teemu Suninen claimed the FIA WRC 2 Championship win by over 30 seconds from Jan Kopecky. The Finn had a great opening day on gravel where he was able to establish his advantage, despite the Czech Škoda driver taking all the stage wins on Saturday and Sunday’s Tarmac stages. Nil Solans’ win in the FIA Junior WRC Championship category provisionally secures him the title, adding this to his already won WRC 3 crown.