Fredrik Ahlin, from Sweden, holds top spot in his Ford Fiesta R2 with Australian Brendan Reeves a slender 0.5s adrift in his identical machine. Northern Ireland’s Alastair Fisher is third, 1.9s down on Ahlin after he overshot a junction on the second stage and dropped 10 seconds, with Swede Pontus Tidemand fourth, 15.7s adrift of top spot, and the top category newcomer.
To underline the close competition in the class for young drivers, the top four runners have all claimed a stage victory apiece with Reeves going fastest on SSS Lisboa, Ahlin taking the honours on Gomes Aires, Tidemand setting the pace on Santa Clara and Fisher topping the times on Ourique, which was held in heavy rain.
“The first three stages were good and I am really happy to be leading,” said Ahlin. “The last stage was not what I had hoped for and we lost maybe 10 seconds. I made a set-up change before the last stage, which didn’t work, and we had no traction. We also lost our rhythm with the pace notes so didn’t push. Unfortunately the change didn’t work but that’s rallying.”
Briton Elfyn Evans is fifth overnight after losing ground on stage two with a misting windscreen and being delayed by a slower car running ahead of him on the road. Dutch driver Timo van der Marel is in sixth position after reporting a misting windscreen on stage four. Spaniard Jose Suarez and American Christopher Duplessis are seventh and eighth respectively. However, neither Joao Silva nor John MacCrone failed to complete the opening day’s action.
Silva went off and got stuck in a ditch on stage four. MacCrone said he damaged the front of his Fiesta in a heavy landing. Both drivers are due to return on day two.