The eight-time WRC champion is on course to claim his first victory in the hybrid era of the FIA World Rally Championship on just his fifth start in a Rally1 specification GR Yaris.
Ogier was virtually untouchable and won four of seven speed tests on loose asphalt in the hills of the Costa Daurada to turn a slim 4.8 second lead overnight into a 20.7 second advantage over Thierry Neuville at day one. from the end of this penultimate lap.
Barring major dramas, the Toyota Gazoo Racing team from Ogier is almost certain to seal the constructors’ championship title on Sunday.
“It was a very nice day for us,” Ogier said. “We had a lot of fun in the car and the lap times followed. It’s always what you dream of when you come to a rally.
“Honestly, I’m happy with my season so far, but of course it would be nice to get a win. Now we’re in a good position, but there’s still a long way to go.”
Neuville took second place at the last hour, taking the place of 2022 champion Kalle Rovanperä, who wasted a lot of time selecting the wrong engine card at the El Montmell start line. At the end of the game, only 1.4 seconds separated the pair.
It was a generally frustrating day for Neuville, however, as he struggled to optimize the settings of his i20 N. Despite continuous adjustments to the car, he couldn’t find the perfect balance between understeer and rear clearance.
His Estonian teammate Ott Tänak finished 15.9 seconds behind. Tänak’s day went relatively uneventfully and he edged fifth-placed Dani Sordo, also driving an i20 N, by 36.6 seconds.
Sordo’s Saturday was one of two halves. The morning was filled with frustration as he repeatedly lost time to the leading crews. Mid-leg adjustments rejuvenated the Spaniard and he even took a stage victory late in the afternoon.
Elfyn Evans remained lackluster sixth overall, 14.4 seconds behind Sordo. His Toyota ran smoothly but, like Sordo, the 33-year-old driver was missing something and he couldn’t quite put his finger on what it was.
Tire management was the main talking point for Craig Breen, who finished seventh overall in a Ford Puma M-Sport. The Irishman failed to manage the car’s set-up, which led to him overheating the front tires on several occasions. He languished 1min 39.7sec behind the leader but got rid of the hotshot from the Yaris Takamoto Katsuta.
The Puma duo Adrien Fourmaux and Pierre-Louis Loubet complete the ranking. The latter broke into the top 10 at the expense of teammate Gus Greensmith, who retired after crashing into an armco barrier on a right-hander on the final stage of the morning loop.
WATCH: Greensmith collapses on Saturday morning
Sunday’s final features two laps of Pratdip (12.15km) and Riudecanyes (15.90km). The former is extended by 2km from last year while Riudecanyes is well known for the Coll de la Teixeta roundabout, where drivers perform a 360° donut in front of huge hillside crowds.
The second Riudecanyes pass forms the Wolf Power Stage, with bonus points awarded to the five fastest crews. The four stages cover 56.10 km, bringing the total of the rally to 293.77 km over a course of 1330.91 km.