The World Rally Championship arrived in Portugal, the first European gravel that these new cars would be unleashed on in competition.
There would be nineteen stages over the four days.
Just a reminder of the schedule for you.
THURSDAY 18 MAY
7.30am: Shakedown (Paredes)
6.10pm: Start (Guimaraes)
7.03pm: SS1 – Lousada (3.36km)
8.00pm: Parc ferme (Exponor)
FRIDAY 19 MAY
8.40am: Service A (Exponor – 19 min)
10.09am: SS2 – Viana do Castelo 1 (26.70km)
11.06am: SS3 – Caminha 1 (18.10km)
11.46am: SS4 – Ponte de Lima 1 (27.46km)
2.25pm: Service B (Exponor – 34 mins)
4.09pm: SS5 – Viana do Castelo 2 (26.70km)
5.06pm: SS6 – Caminha 2 (18.10km)
5.46pm: SS7 – Ponte de Lima 2 (27.46km)
7.03pm: SS8 – Braga Street Stage 1 (1.90km)
7.28pm: SS9 – Braga Street Stage 2 (1.90km)
8.40pm: Service C (Exponor – 49 mins)
SATURDAY 20 MAY
7.15am: Service D (Exponor – 19 mins)
9.08am: SS10 – Vieira do Minho 1 (17.43km)
9.46am: SS11 – Cabeceiras de Basto 1 (22.30km)
11.04am: SS12 – Amarante 1 (37.55km)
1.00pm: Service E (Exponor – 34 mins)
3.08pm: SS13 – Vieira do Minho 2 (17.43km)
3.46pm: SS14 – Cabeceiras de Basto 2 (22.30km)
5.04pm: SS15 – Amarante 2 (37.55km)
6.55pm: Service F (Exponor – 49 mins)
SUNDAY 21 MAY
7.35am: Service G (Exponor – 19 mins)
9.08am: SS16 – Fafe 1 (11.18km)
9.30am: SS17 – Luilhas (11.91km)
10.20am: SS18 – Montim (8.66km)
12.18pm: SS19 – Power Stage Fafe 2 (11.18km)
1.50pm: Service H (Exponor – 14 mins)
The shakedown was very close.
1. Sordo / Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC) 3:06.9
2. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 3:07.0
3. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) 3:07.1
4. Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) 3:07.2
5. Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) 3:07.5
12. Lefebvre / Moreau (Citroën C3 WRC) 3:09.4
13. Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) 3:09.5
16. Al Qassimi / Patterson (Citroën C3 WRC) 3:16.3
The first stage was just a blast around. Thierry and Mads set the same time incredibly!
SS1 – Lousada (SSS) (3.36km)
1 Neuville & Ostberg 2:36.6 (90kph)
3 Paddon +0.1
After the short stage on Thursday evening, the top ten looked like this.
1 Ostberg 2m36.6s
2 Neuville +0.0s
3 Paddon +0.1s
4 Evans +0.4s
5 Sordo +0.5s
6 Ogier +0.7s
7 Latvala +1.5s
8 Lefebvre +1.5s
9 Hänninen +1.8s
10 Meeke +2.0s
Friday dawned bright and warm. Hayden powered through the stage, clearly glad to be back on gravel and took the lead of the event. His teammate, Thierry had a nightmare, losing nearly 13 seconds and dropping to 12th overall.
SS2 – Viana do Castelo 1 (26.70km)
1 Paddon 15:44.3 (104kph)
2 Latvala +1.0
3️ Meeke +1.2
Stage three and there was another change in the lead, with Jari-Matti moving to the front after Hayden lost time. There was big drama for Lefebvre who rolled in the stage and had two punctures now on his car and still one more stage before midday service. Ogier lost time through here and was now down to eighth position. Running at the front clearly was doing him no favours.
SS3 – Caminha 1 (18.10km)
1 Latvala 10:25.2 (108kph)
2 Evans +1.3
3 Tanak +1.9
The longest stage of the day and well, what an incredible situation with the top three setting the same time! Ogier would power through just 1.2 seconds slower than the top three, bringing his car back into the top five! Kris was just half a second behind Jari-Matti, now challenging for the lead!
SS4 – Ponte de Lima 1 (27.46km)
1️ Meeke, Breen & Tanak ‼️ 19:14.0 (85.3kph)
A quick midday service and then it was time to get back out there. Hayden repeated his stage win from the morning and moved back into the top five deposing Ogier down to sixth. Kris took the lead from Jari-Matti by just two tenths of a second
SS5 – Viana do Castelo 2 (26.70km)
1 Paddon 15:35.6 (104kph)
2 Sordo +4.2
3️ Meeke +5.1
Thierry won the next stage, thus closing the gap to his teammate Dani on the overall leaderboard. Hayden in his i20 also moved up to third overall. The big news was that Kris tumbled down from the lead to fifth place, now 6.2 seconds from the lead and Ott Tanak took over the lead.
SS6 – Caminha 2 (18.10km)
1 Neuville 10:25.0 (108kph)
2 Evans +0.4
3 Tanak +2.0
The next stage would be full of drama for Kris, who would run wide and hit the rear of his car thus damaging his suspension. Jari-Matti would also roll his Toyota, but was able to continue. It would go all wrong for Hayden, who suffered an electrical failure and drop from third to sixteenth! What a shocker for the young kiwi. With all this happening, both Dani, who won the stage and Ogier moved up into second and third respectively on the main leaderboard.
SS7 – Ponte de Lima 2 (27.46km)
1 Sordo 19:20.2 (85.3kph)
2 Ogier +2.6
3 Tanak +4.6
Just two small stages to end the first full day, which finished with these results.
SS8 – Braga Street Stage1 (1.90km)
1 Ogier 1:48.8 (60kph)
2 Neuville +0.2
3 Paddon +0.5
SS9 – Braga Street Stage2 (1.90km)
1 Ostberg 1:46.5 (60kph)
2 Paddon +0.4
3 Evans +0.6
Here the top ten after the first day.
1 O. Tanak 1:37:18.5
2 D. Sordo +4.6
3 S. Ogier +5.0
4 T. Neuville +11.1
5 C. Breen +12.9
6 E. Evans +18.3
7 J. Hänninen +52.0
8 E. Lappi +1:12.3
9 A. Mikkelsen +3:17.8
10 M. Østberg +3:50.0
Let’s here from the drivers then, starting with the top three.
Ott Tänak (1st) said:
“It’s great to be in the lead of the rally. The plan always was to get a good start position for tomorrow and it looks as though we’ve made a good job of that.
“We struggled a bit this afternoon with some damage to the wishbone on the middle stage [SS6]. We had to make some repairs, so I’m happy to see that it stayed together and we made it back to service still in the lead.
“As we saw today, the competition is really tight and everyone is going at pretty much the same pace. It’s really good to see that the competition is so strong and I’m sure that will continue into tomorrow. We just need to keep pushing and keep smart.”
Dani Sordo (2nd) said:
“It’s been a very promising and highly enjoyable day. We have shown some good pace in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, and set some competitive stage times. It is always a special feeling to perform so well in front of these passionate fans, so I was very happy to claim a stage win this afternoon. It’s been an incredibly close day and there are just five seconds separating the top three, with plenty more action behind us as well. I think it will continue to be an exciting rally with very tough stages to come on Saturday. I hope we can carry on in this way and try to score our second podium of the season.”
Sébastien Ogier (3rd) said:
“Overall, I think we can be really happy with our day. It was tough to open the road, but we pushed hard through all of the stages and I’m very pleased with our position tonight.
“It got quite rough for the second loop which is always a bit more risky, but for sure it’s faster to be further back – cleaning the road is never easy. If I could choose, I would always prefer to start from the back but it’s part of the game and I think we’ve done a really good job today.
“The competition is so tight at the moment and we came really close to catching Dani on the closing stages – just 0.4 seconds at the end of the day! It’s certainly going to be an interesting one tomorrow. The rally is still anyone’s for the taking and we’ll give it our all like always.”
Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT
Craig Breen (5th) said:
“It’s been a fantastic day, I didn’t expect to be fighting so near the front on what is effectively my first time here. I feel that I have made progress in understanding the car and my only regret was on SS7, when I damaged the damper when I hit a stone. If it hadn’t been for that, I think we could have closed the gap to the leaders!”
Stéphane Lefebvre (19th) said:
“It’s a shame because I felt comfortable in the C3 WRC on these roads. On SS3, we were on a fast section and there was a misunderstanding on the pace note. I carried too much speed into the corner and the car drifted wide before hitting a low bank. We rolled, but the damage wasn’t too significant. The mechanics did a great job during service, but the handling of the car was nonetheless impaired throughout the second loop. The main thing is that we are still in the race, and we’ll be trying hard to do better tomorrow.”
Khalid Al Qassimi (20th) said:
“We spent the day learning about what is fundamentally a very different car to the one I have been driving recently. As we completed more stages, we tried to alter the set-up to suit my driving style. There are a lot of things to learn in order to establish all the right reflexes. I’m pleased to have avoided making any mistakes.”
Thierry Neuville (4th) said:
“I am pleased that we got back some of our lost time. I felt that we could have regained some tomorrow but we are now more firmly in the podium and victory fight, which is fair. It was nice to share the stage win in Thursday evening’s super special but we got down to real business on Friday morning and it was a different story. It might not have been the best opening stage this morning but the feeling was getting better and better. We ended the morning just ten seconds from the podium. We wanted to give it a push in the afternoon where tyre choice was really important. I think we made the right decision for the entire loop, and we won SS6 with a very nice time. We were just focused on not making mistakes and closing the time deficit to the leader. Now we can put the dramas from today behind us and look ahead to Saturday with optimism.”
Hayden Paddon (24th) commented:
“I honestly don’t know when we are going to catch a break. Things started well this morning with a stage win. We had a small electrical issue in SS3, which cost us some time, but it was really close at the top and we were firmly in the battle. We were expecting the second pass to suit us better. Tyre choice was an important consideration but we were managing that well. We benefitted from some positive changes to the diff and suspension at lunchtime service, so it was looking really promising. Then, in SS7, we were on a flyer but the electrical issue recurred suddenly and we stopped mid-stage. We lost 11 minutes before we could get restarted and we have to re-join under Rally 2 tomorrow. That’s effectively the rally over for us but our road position tomorrow means we can try to show our true pace. We can only use the remainder of the weekend as a test. I’m trying to stay positive but I hope there’s something really good when this run of bad luck ends.”
Elfyn Evans (6th) said:
“It’s been an okay day to be fair. We had a few little issues this morning and I didn’t get off to a great start. It was quite damp and it didn’t suit the tyres so well – we prefer it when it’s a bit dryer – but the middle stage was good. Unfortunately, we then picked up a puncture [on the last stage of the morning, SS4] and lost what I think was about 15 seconds to the leaders.
“The gap has stayed the same this afternoon and if you take the puncture out of the equation we would have been looking at quite a positive position. But it is what it is, and we’ll keep fighting tomorrow. It’s good that everyone is so close, and I think everyone will be going hard tomorrow so we need to do our best.”
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Jari-Matti Latvala (13th) said:
“I was able to push hard today, even though the roads were even rougher than I expected. To be leading the rally was quite surprising. On the final gravel stage of the day, which was very rough, I had a strange feeling with the car, like it was skidding. I didn’t manage to get it stopped on time, so we hit the bank, went up onto two wheels and rolled, losing a lot of time. There was some damage to the car but we managed to get it to back to service, which is the most important thing and tomorrow is a new day. We will fight to get back in the points, as we have already shown today that with our Toyota Yaris WRC we can fight for victory.”
Juho Hänninen (7th)
“Compared to lots of other people I had quite a good day today, not so many big problems. In the morning, I felt I was quite careful, maybe a little bit too careful, but that’s always better than not being careful enough. We made some changes to the car for the afternoon to help it cope with the rougher terrain even better, but it was still very difficult. We picked up a bit of a damage, with the front wing coming off, but not enough to affect us too much. We’ve seen that the car is fast and strong, so there are lots of reasons to be happy as we go into tomorrow.”
Esapekka Lappi (8th)
“It was a good day for me, even though we lost some time with a hole in the intercooler in the afternoon, which affected the amount of power. Apart from that I’m quite happy: I tried not to take any risks and play my way into it gradually. Today was all about building up confidence, especially as the roads were more slippery and softer than I expected. I think we are OK in the slow corners; in the fast corners, I feel we can go quicker, but for now I’m not quite brave enough!”
Mads Østberg (10th) said:
“It was a shame to get two punctures over SS4 and SS5. I thought I could manage to finish the stage without too much loss, like I did on SS4 where I also had a puncture. But with eight km’s to go on SS5 I was driving on the rim and had to stop to change the wheel. It was a huge disappointment, as we felt we had the speed to fight for top positions in this rally.”
Mads dropped to 16th, but fought back in the afternoon.
“I must say I am a bit surprised and amused. Superspecials and spectator stages really hasn`t been my strength before, and I can`t actually remember the last time I won such a stage. I did a lousy run through SS8, the first time through the stage in Braga, and was really disappointed with myself. Then I thought before SS9 that I can`t let all this people think I am that bad. So, I was properly angry and drove a near perfect stage. It was also very satisfying to win a stage on tarmac. I felt I had reached an all-time low after SS5, but now I am looking forward to show that my speed is good enough to post stage times among the best. This is definitely a very demanding and tough rally, and there are possibilities to advance several places as long as we stay on the road.”
Saturday’s action started just after 8am UK time. Five stages, with the longest stage of the whole weekend, Amarante at 37.55km’s being run twice.
Seb was after that win and he was close enough to his teammate to do it. First blood would fall to him and he would move up into second place overall. With Elfyn going through the stage so fast, it would see him move ahead of Craig into fifth place. Mads would also move up ahead of Jari-Matti into ninth place.
SS10 – Vieira do Minho 1 (17.43km)
1 Ogier 10:46.4 (102kph)
2 Evans +0.2
3 Neuville +1.8
Ott fought back on the next stage to open up a six second lead over Seb, with Thierry moving ahead of Dani into third as well. Both Craig and Juho moved ahead of Elfyn who dropped down to seventh.
SS11 – Cabeceiras de Basto 1 (22.30km)
1 Tanak 13:32.6 (101.5kph)
2 Ogier +5.2
3 Neuville +9.9
Ott would endure a nightmare following stage. He slid wide and the car hit a bank, causing damage that would slow him down, falling from the lead to fifth place. Seb assumed the lead, with Thierry, Dani, and Craig moving up a place. Ott had lost a minute and ten seconds. The gap between first and second was now 19.5 seconds.
SS12 – Amarante 1 (37.55km)
1 Ogier 24:41.5 (92.5kph)
2 Neuville +6.9
3 Sordo +8.6
Thierry would win this one, clearly car and driver now working in harmony. Seb was only a second slower though, so this wasn’t the watershed moment we were hoping for. Former leader Ott would lose another three seconds, but still maintained fifth overall. The good news was that Ott had managed to get his car to service, so the problem was able to be sorted before the afternoon stages.
I’ll let Ott explain what happened.
He says, “We were having a really good morning and the car felt really good. We were pushing for sure, but also fairly comfortable at the pace we were setting. Unfortunately, we just had some understeer under braking [on SS12] and hit the bank on the outside.
“We damaged the suspension and lost the brakes which made it pretty difficult through the closing kilometres and cost us a lot of time. But what can you do? We just have to pick ourselves up and focus on the next loop.
“We need to do the same job as we did this morning. Get everything fixed, make a good tyre choice, get back into the same rhythm, and see what we can do.”
With Ott’s car fixed, he was back in the groove, setting a quick time and looking to catch Craig who was ahead of him in fourth place and the gap came down by three seconds.
SS13 – Vieira do Minho 2 (17.43km)
1 Neuville 10:43.4 (102kph)
2 Ogier +1.0
3 Tanak +3.5
While Ogier and Neuville would continue their dice for the lead, Ott closed the gap a further six seconds to Craig. There were changes further down with Elfyn and Esapekka both moving up ahead of Juha into sixth and seventh places.
SS14 – Cabeceiras de Basto 2 (22.30km)
1 Ogier 13:31.0 (101.5kph)
2 Neuville +4.5
3 Latvala +5.0
Thierry would take six seconds out of Seb’s lead in stage 15, but the good news for Ott would continue in the afternoon loop, with him moving ahead of Craig into fourth place. After his improvement in the previous stage, Esapekka would lose a bundle of time dropping to eleventh place. All the drivers behind would move up one place each.
SS15 – Amarante 2 (37.55km)
1 Neuville 24:33.8 (92.5kph)
2 Ogier +6.2
3 Tanak +10.3
So, after a dramatic Saturday, lets here from the drivers, starting with the top three.
Sébastien Ogier (1st) said:
“I’m very happy with how my day went. It’s been a very long time since I‘ve been able to do this kind of performance – having always been first or second into the stages. I think I did the same kind of driving as yesterday but the road position is quite different and I’m very pleased with the gap that we have managed to build.
“For sure the rally is not over yet and we still need to finish the job. With 16 seconds you can never relax completely so we need to continue in the same way – keeping the same speed and staying clear of trouble.
“We have some beautiful stages still to drive tomorrow and I really love Fafe – it’s fantastic. For sure we still have to push because no one is going to back off. We still need to give it all we have and the Power Stage is always important for those extra points.
“I’m really looking forward to this last day and hoping to bring home another good result for the team and the championship.”
Thierry Neuville (2nd) said:
“We have done all we could do today to stay in touch with the rally leader. We have shown consistent pace throughout the day and also taken two stage wins ourselves, which is encouraging. But Ogier has been out of reach in some stages today, which has allowed him to build a healthy lead. We are pretty happy to be second, though, especially after the tough day we had yesterday. This morning was something of a compromise on tyres. We started strongly in SS13 with the win but then it was hit and miss, as we gained in some places and lost in others. The final run of the day was the one I felt most comfortable with, and it was nice to end the day with a stage win. There are still opportunities in the final four stages but as a team we have two cars on the podium, so we won’t be doing anything crazy on Sunday morning.”
Dani Sordo (3rd) said:
“It’s been a difficult day really but we can be reasonably content to be in a comfortable podium position. I tried my best, as always, but I wanted to put up more of a battle for the lead than we were able to. The car was sliding around at the rear quite a bit, especially in the morning, and we were missing some traction compared to our nearest rivals. We tried to make improvements at lunchtime but the times did not improve. The stages were still enjoyable and I had fun. We can’t be too disappointed to be third, on the provisional podium, which was our target this weekend. There is still a lot to do on Sunday, so it is not guaranteed yet.”
Ott Tänak (4th) said:
“It was a shame about what happened this morning. We were pushing hard but still felt quite comfortable with the pace we were setting. This is rallying and it’s just the way it goes sometimes so I’m not too frustrated.
“This afternoon we weren’t pushing so much – just concentrating on having a good rhythm with a smooth and clean drive. It was good to get back up to fourth, and that gives us a better road position going into tomorrow.
“We’ll see what happens and try to do our best as always. Craig [Breen] is still quite close behind and he’s had some good speed this weekend so we’ll have to keep an eye on him for sure.”
Elfyn Evans (6th) said:
“We were really happy with the first stage [SS10], but it’s not been so good since then. I made a mistake half way through the second stage [SS11] and was quite lucky to get back on the road. We did, but we drove to the end of the stage with a puncture and that then caused some damage to the damper – which hampered us for the longest stage of the loop [SS12].
“Moving on to the afternoon, we decided to try some different things and experimented within our package. It didn’t work out, but nothing ventured nothing gained and we did manage to get back up to sixth which is a positive.”
Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT
Craig Breen (5th)
“It was difficult for me to compete with drivers who have contested some stages for the last three years. In any case, we managed to hold onto fourth place for most of the day and improve our understanding of the car. On Amarante 2, I had to cope with wear on the rear tyres and I made a little mistake, which let Tänak past. But the gap is less than three seconds and tomorrow is a proper leg, so we’ll see. I’m staying positive!”
Stéphane Lefebvre (14th)
“I struggled to get my bearings in the car this morning. It’s true that my road position was less favourable than yesterday. But as we completed more stages, and then during service, we made significant progress with the set-up. It was an instructive day.”
Kris Meeke (23rd)
“I was unable to reproduce the level of performance I had yesterday. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact there wasn’t much at stake today, given that we rejoined under Rally2 rules. We worked on the set-up, and made some progress between the morning and afternoon loops.”
Khalid Al Qassimi (18th)
“Insofar as we were running second on the road, we inherited a tough situation because there was a lot of cleaning. Everything didn’t go perfectly today; I found myself with no ‘boost’ on SS14 and the car was very difficult to drive at that point. In any case, the C3 WRC has a huge amount of potential and I think I have made progress in driving the car.”
Hayden Paddon commented: “What can I say? It just seems our bad luck continues. We started this morning’s loop in a positive frame of mind despite the issues we had yesterday. The team worked hard to replace the loom on the car to allow us to continue under Rally 2. We knew it would be tough as second on the road, but we were determined to push and have some fun. I enjoyed it! We had some good sideways moments and put on a good show for the fans. The times were never going to be representative with all the cleaning we had to do. Then, in the afternoon, our luck turned once again as we experienced a steering problem that ended the day early. Not a lot more to add, other than we’ll try to have a trouble-free final day tomorrow.”
Mads Østberg (8th) said:
“After yesterday’s punctures and time losses we were in a vacuum with no realistic chances of a top placing. I am still trying to learn the 2017 spec car and has used the six stages today to test different suspension settings and get some experience with the different tyres. We have advanced according to plan and will be fighting for as many points as possible tomorrow.”
Speaking about Jari-Matti, Mads continued-
“He is not far behind, but I get some motivation actually to fight for position. We will use the experience from this rally to come back even stronger in Sardinia, but first I must keep Jari-Matti behind me tomorrow.”
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Jari-Matti Latvala (9th) said:
“I started the day not feeling very well: I had a stomach upset that made it difficult for me to keep any food down, but it’s been getting better and better. The really positive thing about today is that we’ve definitely improved the car for the second passes over the stages, especially the suspension. Everyone has done a lot of good work so compared to yesterday, it’s certainly going in the right direction. We’ve had one or two small niggles during the day but no major problems. The roads were more solid today, which made the cleaning effect bigger, but this also meant that they were not damaged as much in the afternoon. This rally has been a good learning experience for us so far.”
Juho Hänninen (7th) said:
“We saw some dust from Esapekka on the final stage, and he quickly let us past on after his problem so big thanks to him and the team for co-ordinating this. Quite a tricky day for us, as in the afternoon we lost about a minute after the car stopped on stage 14 and then it took us some time to get going again; I’m not entirely sure why yet, but I believe the team will fix it. Generally, the stages this afternoon were in better condition than they were yesterday, but of course I am driving with a bit in reserve as I don’t really have any experience here. Apart from that, no big issues, but the grip for me felt a bit variable all day. The important thing is to stay calm, then hopefully we can have a good result tomorrow.”
Esapekka Lappi (11th) said:
“I got caught out by some loose gravel on the asphalt part of the final stage and unfortunately this meant that the back of the car hit a wall: it did some damage to the rear-right and we also lost the brake disc. Luckily, we were able to come back to service. On the second stage this morning we also lost around a minute: I stalled the car on the stage, which was my mistake, and then I had to make some adjustments to start it again. So a few mistakes from me today and we didn’t always have the right tyres either, but that is all part of the learning process. Generally, I thought there was a bit less grip on the roads today than yesterday, so in some places I was braking a bit too early.”
Top ten after day two
1 Ogier 3h15m24.6s
2 Neuville +16.8s
3 Sordo +51.3s
4 Tanak +1m29.6s
5 Breen +1m32.4s
6 Evans +3m01.8s
7 Hänninen +3m29.8s
8 Ostberg +5m16.6s
9 Latvala +5m32.7s
10 Mikkelsen +7m06.6s
11 Lappi +8m00.9s
First stage of the day would feature the world famous Fafe leap! Hayden would hit the ground running and won it from Ott and Thierry. The only place that would change was Esapekka moving ahead of Lefebvre into tenth place. Thierry closed the gap to Seb by a little over a second, bringing the gap down to 16 seconds. Ott was also closer to Dani, going seven seconds faster than the Spaniard.
SS16 – Fafe 1 (11.18km)
1 Paddon 6:39.7 (110kph)
2 Tanak +2.6
3 Neuville +2.7
Dani wasn’t going to let the young Estonian through without a fight though and was duly faster than Ott keeping the gap above thirty seconds with two stages left. Mads was doing a great job in his Fiesta, keeping Jari-Matti behind him.
SS17 – Luílhas (11.91km)
1 Ogier 8:09.7 (82.5kph)
2 Sordo +3.3
3 Neuville +3.3
Hayden would continue his good form, winning his second stage of the day, and Kris just behind him showing much better, after a pretty awful event, one that he won last year as well. With one stage to run, the gap between first and second was now 17.5 seconds and barring disaster, Seb was in the pound seats. Dani was doing a perfect run, maintaining the gap to Ott at the thirty second mark.
SS18 – Montim (8.66km)
1 Paddon 5:51.7 (96kph)
2️ Meeke +2.1
3 Evans +3.4
Ott would win the power stage and with it the five points. Thierry would take second and four points, Elfyn three points, Esapekka completing his first WRC event fourth in this stage and taking two points from it and championship leader Seb, one point.
SS19 – Fafe 2 (Power Stage) (11.18km)
1 Tanak 6:38.3 (110kph)
2 Neuville +0.4
3 Evans +1.5
1 Ogier 3h42m55.7s
2 Neuville +15.6s
3 Sordo +1m01.7s
4 Tanak +1m30.2s
5 Breen +1m57.4s
6 Evans +3m10.6s
8 Ostberg +5m29.7s
9 Latvala +5m43.6s
10 Lappi +8m13.3s
Seb took his second win of the season for M-Sport, to open up the gap to his closest challenger, Thierry.
Let’s hear from the drivers, starting with the top three.
Sébastien Ogier (1st) said:
“I’m delighted with this result. It’s been a hard fight until the end but I think everyone always enjoys winning like that. Honestly, when we did the recce, I didn’t think we would have a chance to challenge for the victory – and that makes this result an even prouder and happier one.
“Opening the road is always a challenge, but we had a really good run through Friday’s stages and that gave us a much better road position for the rest of the rally. On Saturday, I was back where I always prefer to be and posted the first or second fastest time though every stage.
“It was an intense fight with Ott through the first half of the rally. He had great pace all weekend and, even after his mistake, managed to score good points for the team.
“Everything feels good and I really must thank the team for all of their hard work. I’ve always said that rallying is a team effort and the car has been perfect all weekend. Everyone is putting in the maximum and they really deserve this victory.
“I’m happy that we could give back from our side with a strong performance. Actually, my number one mechanic and my engineer are Portuguese so I’m sure they are very proud to secure this one too!”
Thierry Neuville (2nd) said:
“We had a good, clean Power Stage to end our rally in a positive manner. We have struggled a bit with the rear of the car this weekend, which has prevented us from challenging Ogier and M-Sport for the win more strongly. They delivered a great performance here, which we couldn’t match. Still, after two wins I am pleased to finish second as well as taking another good haul of Power Stage points. That has been very important for my position in the Drivers’ Championship, moving now into second place behind Ogier. Also, from a team point of view, with Dani in third, we have added more points to the team’s standings, so it’s been a valuable and successful weekend. Thanks to the team for their efforts, we can now look ahead to Sardinia, where we were victorious last season, in a very positive frame of mind.”
Dani Sordo (3rd) said:
“I am really happy with this podium result. I was a bit disappointed on Saturday not to be able to fight closer to the front, but Sébastien and Thierry were just too fast. It left me a bit too far away to attack more on today’s stages so I was just focused on finishing third and taking the podium. It was a fun and enjoyable weekend. The support of the spectators was incredible and it was fantastic to see so many people lining the stages. Big thanks to everyone who has cheered us on, and to everyone in the team for this great result.”
Ott Tänak (4th) said:
“Generally, I think we can be pleased with our weekend. We made a mistake on Saturday which meant that we lost the chance to battle Seb for the victory, but we had good pace, good speed and a good feeling with the car.
“I think this was probably the best set-up that I have had all year. After every test we keep improving and we’ll have a two-day test next week to prepare for Sardinia where we hope to challenge for another strong result.
“This is traditionally the event where you see the true potential of the cars and, at the moment, it looks like we have a good package. For sure there are still some small improvements to be made, but it’s certainly looking promising.”
Elfyn Evans (6th) said:
“It’s been a rally of ups and downs. It’s not been the perfect weekend, but there are plenty of good things to take away. It wasn’t ideal that we made the mistake on Saturday, but when the going was good, so was the speed and we have to take that positive forward.”
Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT
Craig Breen (5th) said:
“It looks like I’ve signed up for fifth place for the season! It’s been another good weekend for us. We were one of the fastest on Friday and in all likelihood, we would have led the overall standings had we not hit a rock and broken a damper on SS7. We had a little bit more difficulty matching the pace of the leading cars on the next two days. I think there were several factors at play, but it was mainly down to my lack of knowledge of the stages and not having such a good starting position. We’ll keep working and try to do even better in Sardinia.”
Stéphane Lefebvre (13th) said:
“The result obviously falls way short of what we were looking for when we came here. We had worked particularly hard to prepare for this rally, but our race changed shape dramatically on Friday morning. After our roll, we tried to improve as we completed more stages. Our starting position certainly didn’t help us to show what we can do.”
Kris Meeke (18th) said:
“We ended the rally today having got back to a rhythm closer to that of the leading crews. It seems that our level of performance wasn’t as good after the first leg, and we’ll need to work out why. We must all keep working and, on my side of things, I have to cut out these minor mistakes.”
Khalid Al Qassimi (17th) said:
“We had quite a scare on the second run over the Fafe jump! I wanted to go faster than on the first pass, but it was clearly a bit too much… In any case, I’m pleased to make it to the end of my first rally in the Citroën C3 WRC. I need to get more kilometres under my belt to come to terms with its potential.”
Hayden Paddon (29th) commented:
“First of all, I’d like to say big thanks to our team for their hard work. It’s been a frustrating one at times but they have never given up. In fact, they only dig deeper with each rally so we are all aiming to conquer this challenge together. We wanted to use these final stages of the rally to show what we could accomplish, and the fact we could set more stage wins only reinforced what might have been without our troubles. The Power Stage was fun. As first on the road, we had to do a lot of cleaning, more than we expected, but I enjoyed it. Seb has done an amazing job in his first time in the car. We could’ve been fighting for the win here this weekend but there are some encouraging signs for the future.”
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Jari-Matti Latvala (9th)
“Physically, this is the hardest rally I have ever done in my career. I was feeling terrible yesterday, but I spent the night in hospital to rehydrate and as a result I felt a lot better today and we were able to finish in the points, which I am very happy about. There’s no test before Sardinia, so I have a chance to rest properly – I think I could sleep now for the next two days! – and come back even stronger for the next rally.”
Juho Hänninen (7th)
“I’m happy to end another rally in a points-scoring place, especially because we didn’t have much experience here and conditions were quite tricky, although not quite as bad as Argentina. The most important thing is that we learned a lot and generally had a clean run: this helps the confidence. Today we were trying a couple of different things for the future, and I had a lot of fun on the Fafe stage: the crowds were amazing and it was a fantastic experience, so thank you to them as well.”
Esapekka Lappi (10th)
“To be honest, before the rally I was hoping that we could score points in the overall classification, but I would never have dreamed of it happening on the Power Stage. So, in many ways, this rally didn’t exactly go as I expected, but I’m happy: I think we found the right speed, which is very important. On the first two stages, today I tried to save the tyres, then on the two final ones I could push harder. My landing after the jump on the Fafe Power Stage was interesting – but at least I could demonstrate how tough the suspension on the Yaris WRC is!”
Coming into the last day, Mads was in a fight with Jari-Matti. The Fiesta crew was therefore very happy that they beat them! In his traditional showman way, Mads decided to go for it over the famous Fafe jump in the power stage. I’ll let him explain what happened!
Mads Østberg (8th) said:
“I saw the 40-metre sign coming towards us and we landed with our front left wheel more or less on top of it. A little bit more “exciting” than we had planned perhaps, but fun to give the huge crowd something to cheer for!”
Talking about the event overall, he went on to say,
“We started the rally with ambitions to fight for a top position, but their chances were destroyed with two punctures midway through Friday. The first one we “survived”, but on SS5 we had to stop and change the wheel and lost three and a half minutes. So, the rest of the rally has been a question of finishing and testing different set-ups. Of course, it has been disappointing not to be up among the frontrunners, but we have won two stages in this rally and also gained a lot of valuable experience.”
Finally explaining about the gold covered roof on their car, and their hopes looking forward to Rally Italia.
“We started to talk about the heat inside the car in Argentina. A black roof on the car actually sucks the rays of sun and heat into the car, and then someone suggested a shiny and reflective surface on the roof. And shiny gold really does the job.”
“It has been much cooler inside the car and much more comfortable for Ola and me. On long stages, we have experienced less sweating and dehydration. I feel that we are on the right course. Rally Portugal wasn`t as expected for us, but we have gained a lot of valuable experience with the car and will use that to fight for a better result in Sardinia.”
Well then, lets sum up the weekend. Seb returned M-Sport to the top step for the second time this year. Thierry and the Hyundai team continue their incredible consistency after those wobbles at the start of the year.
What about Hayden and Kris? Well, both really need a break. Since Kris won in Mexico, he has not scored a decent result. Who’d have thought that Craig would be the highest placed Citroen driver?!
Hayden also needs a break too. Unreliability has certainly cost him results him this year. He’s certainly shown the pace this year, just like Kris.
Finally, what about young Finn, Esapekka Lappi? On his first drive in a top car for Toyota he drove his Yaris WRC to tenth place and also scored points in the power stage. Impressive indeed, and he clearly has a future at the top of this sport.
Let’s take a look then at the championship positions for the drivers and teams.
2017 FIA World Rally Championship for drivers after round six:
1 Sebastien Ogier 128
2 Thierry Neuville 106
3 Jari-Matti Latvala 88
4 Ott Tanak 83
5 Dani Sordo 66
6 Elfyn Evans 53
7 Craig Breen 43
8 Hayden Paddon 33
9 Kris Meeke 27
10 Juho Hänninen 21
2017 FIA World Rally Championship for manufacturers after round six:
1 M-Sport World Rally Team 199
2 Hyundai Motorsport 173
3 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRT 113
4 Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 85
Hope you enjoyed my review of Rally de Portugal.
1st June 2017