The fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship got underway today and Championship leader Sébastien Ogier has claimed the early advantage. Dani Sordo is however hot on his heels in second position, having found a welcome return to form, and Jari-Matti Latvala holds the final provisional podium position.
Rally de Portugal kicked off last night with a ceremonial start in the coastal resort of Vilamoura but today the 70 competing crews took to the surrounding hills for two loops of two identical stages before heading to Lisbon for a spectacular asphalt super special stage in the heart of the city. In total the route covered five stages and 80.55 competitive kilometres.
This morning the talk was all about tyre choice and Ogier was the only driver to select a full complement of soft compound tyres, gaining him an advantage in the first stage. It ultimately proved not to be the optimum choice for the two loops of stages and the Frenchman failed to win any of the other stages but maintained pace to be able to overnight with 4.4 seconds in hand to Sordo. The Spaniard is enjoying a much better run in the Citroën DS3 in Portugal and he won stages three and four to close the gap. Latvala has run without problems but the Finn lacked confidence in the first loop and continues to work on honing the suspension settings to his liking. Mads Østberg was one of the early front-runners, the Ford Fiesta driver winning stage two to take the lead of the event. However, on the following stage the Norwegian went off the road, rolled, and was forced into a disappointing retirement. Mikko Hirvonen - winner of the super special stage - is fourth for Citroën with a reasonable cushion to fifth-place Thierry Neuville. Evgeny Novikov rounds off the top six.
Former Formula One driver Robert Kubica - making his debut in the FIA World Rally Championship -slid wide in the second stage and branches pierced the radiator resulting in overheating problems. Having carried out his own repairs on the following road section, Kubica climbed to 13th overall and second in the FIA WRC 2 Championship category. However, en route to the final super special of the day, the Pole was forced into retirement with a puncture and no available spare.
Rally de Portugal – Unofficial Results after Day 1