This is the longest stage of the rally, and one of the longest of the entire season. There are many crests and corners and great concentration is required from driver and co-driver with the pace notes. It is generally fast and flowing, but a rocky surface in places makes it hard for the cars. The stage will count as the Rally de Portugal Power Stage when it is run for the second time as SS15.
How the action unfolded
His Polo R seemingly back to full strength, Sebastien Ogier made the perfect recovery after his earlier problems, going second-fastest through the marathon Almodovar to extend his rally lead.
Heading to the midpoint service break - and a team of relieved Volkswagen Motorsport technicians - the Frenchman holds a 49.3 second advantage over Mikko Hirvonen who is second in a Citroen DS3.
“Everything seemed okay but I was very careful in there,” said Ogier. “I was very smooth with the amount of torque I put on the clutch. At the start I just crossed my fingers and then did my job.”
His co-driver Julien Ingrassia later added: “Before the start we warmed the clutch up. At the beginning it wasn’t working so well but then it started to work okay for the rest of the stage. Sometimes you’re lucky and sometimes you’re not.”
Hirvonen was closest to Ogier’s pace, but the Finn was unable to mount a flat out attack on the lead.
“He was back up to a steady pace and I still needed to be so careful on my tyres,” said Hirvonen. “My rears were so worn even at the start. We’ll have to do the same on the repeat even though we’ll have better tyres. It’s going to be hard.”
Jari-Matti Latvala dropped 3m03s as he steered his Polo R through the stage with just rear-wheel drive. The heroic performance was enough to keep him third overall, 41.4sec ahead of Evgeny Novikov in fourth.
“I’d like to see how my time compared to the two-wheel drive cars,” Latvala grinned at the stage end. “At least we are still fighting for third. I’m looking forward to getting the car fixed now.”
[Stat fans take note: Latvala’s time through Almodovar in his 315bhp rear-wheel drive Polo R special was 50 seconds quicker than that of the nearest ‘standard’ two-wheel drive car, the 210bhp front-wheel drive Citroen DS3 R3T of Bryan Bouffier.]
The Portugal top five is rounded off by Nasser Al-Attiyah. The Qatari was seventh quickest on SS13 to remain 1m55s behind Novikov in the overall standings.
Like SS11, the stage was won by Rally 2 entrant Mads Ostberg in a Ford Fiesta RS.
Sepp Wiegand lost second place in the WRC-2 category with a gearbox problem.
The German, who leads the championship standings, could not select a gear in his Skoda Fabia S2000 and more than nine minutes passed before he got on his way. It allowed Robert Barrable to climb to second, behind runaway leader Esapekka Lappi.
After the stage, crews headed to the Algarve Stadium and a 30-minute service before repeating both stages this afternoon. The re-run Silves [SS14] gets underway at 1231hrs.