Solberg, in a factory Ford Fiesta RS WRC, beat Sebastien Loeb by two hundredths of a second in a thrilling showdown on the 6.34-kilometre gravel stage, organised as a precursor for round four of the FIA World Rally Championship powered by Nokia.
After his triumph in front of an estimated 100,000 fans, the 2003 world champion said: “I put on a big attack and it feels great to win. I’m very happy, and I hope we can continue this way in the rally. We’ve taken the first step, and now Jari-Matti [Latvala] and I need to beat everybody else next week, too.”
The Fafe Rally Sprint stage is a scaled down version of the famous Rally de Portugal run last used in 2001 prior to the country’s WRC qualifier moving to the Algarve region in the south of the country.
“What an unbelievable stage,” said Solberg, who was co-driven by regular partner Chris Patterson. “There were some really big and difficult jumps, but they only made it even more exciting. This was a team effort and a team victory, for me and for Jari-Matti and for all the guys who did such a good job again with the car.”
Solberg and Latvala were among 30 world championship aces in action on the event. Finn Latvala was faster than Solberg on the first run but was beaten by his Norwegian team-mate on run two, which handed Solberg a shot at the final run as Ford’s representative.
Behind factory Citroen ace Loeb, Dani Sordo took third in his Prodrive WRC Team MINI John Cooper Works WRC. Qatar World Rally Team’s Nasser Al-Attiyah was fourth with M-Sport’s Ott Tanak fifth and local hero Armindo Araujo completing the top six.