Rally Portugal Kicked off (Thursday) This evening, with a Super special In Lisbon followed by 3 Gravel Night stages. This was where we found out who got the choice of road position correct, between Ford And Citroën.
SS1 was only a short 3km sprint around Lisboa which Fords Petter Solberg won. The first proper Gravel stage was the 10km Gomes Aires. And it was once again Fords Petter Solberg who took the stage win by 2.2 seconds over team mate Latvala. It seemed, with the little sprinkle of rain, that Ford had got it right with no dust issues and a cleanly swept road ahead of them. Despite being 3rd fastest on SS2 Citroens Mikko Hirvonen was not a happy man at stage end. Complaining that he couldn’t find the rhythm or confidence or grip. Road tactics were to blame although the fin seemed reluctant to admit to it. Mini’s Dani Sordo had to retire on SS2 due to electrical problems.
Drama on the Following stage. Super Seb rarely makes a misstake. But when he does it’s a big one. And towards the end of the 14km stage Loeb went off at high speed. And into retirement. The car a long way off the road, meaning it has to wait for recovery by the team. It’s reported that there’s possible Roll cage damage and may not be able to restart. (more updates on that to follow) Was the road cleaning issues to blame? Either way, with Loeb out of the picture and Hirvo Struggling, The Fords were making the most of it and were fully in control. With the pair now trading Stage times. Latvala Setting the fastest time on SS3 and Petter just 2.7 seconds behind. Stage end JML said that he knew about Seb stop before he started the stage, JML said Miikka kept saying in the stage, calm down, remember Seb is stopped!! But the Flying fin jumped into the lead but just half a second over his team mate Solberg. With Hirvonen over 10 seconds away overall in 3rd.
Fords Young gun, Ott Tanak has shown impressive pace this evening. Seeming to get quicker on every stage. On SS1 5th fastest, SS2 & 3 4th fastest. On the following stage he was even more impressive and took his first ever WRC stage win. Showing that Malcolm Wilson’s keen eye on the young Estonian was a good one.
By the end of day 1 after the evenings 4 stages Ford were fully in control with Jari Matti Latvala leading the way, and team mate Solberg just 2.6 seconds behind. But there’s a long way to go, and with Loeb out of the way, it could be anyones rally.
WRC Portugal DAY1
Tanak wins 1st stage SS4