Thursday | 19 May 2022

Slick Neuville grabs early Portugal lead

Thierry Neuville snatched an early advantage at Vodafone Rally de Portugal on Thursday night after winning a spectacular opening speed test in the streets of Coimbra.

The Belgian stopped the clock 0.6sec faster than Hyundai i20 N team-mate Ott Tänak on 2.82km of asphalt roads around the banks of the Mondego River in the country’s former capital.

Neuville turned on the style around the tight hairpins and roundabouts to the delight of the fans in what was effectively a warm-up for three days of hot and dusty gravel action in the north and centre of the country.

“A really nice opening stage,” smiled Neuville. “It was quite tricky but it’s good to see the crowds back again because the last three years have not been so nice. Hopefully it will be a great fight this weekend.”

The top three were blanketed by 1.4sec, with Irishman Craig Breen filling the final podium place ahead of M-Sport Ford Puma colleague Gus Greensmith four tenths behind.

Video: Vodafone Rally de Portugal shakedown

Sébastien Ogier, back at the wheel of a Toyota GR Yaris for the first time since January’s opening round of the FIA World Rally Championship, was fifth with team-mate and championship leader Kalle Rovanperä rounding out the top six.

Takamoto Katsuta, nine-time world champion Sébastien Loeb, 2021 winner Elfyn Evans and Adrien Fourmaux completed the top 10.

The stage followed the start ceremony in the city centre and ahead of the action fans were treated to demonstration runs by almost 20 classic cars as part of the WRC’s 50th season celebrations.

Portugal countdown: rally route

Portugal countdown: rally route

Four rounds into the FIA World Rally Championship’s innovative hybrid era and the superstars at the wheel have the opportunity ...

Read More

The going gets tougher on Friday morning when crews tackle three gravel stages near Arganil, which hosts a tyre change before the trio is repeated in the afternoon. A run through Mortágua and a side-by-side test at Lousada rallycross circuit close the day.

With no service allowed until competitors return to Matosinhos in the evening, except for running repairs by crews using tools carried in their cars, mechanical issues in the 122km of competition could prove costly.

• Full coverage from Vodafone Rally de Portugal will be available on WRC+ All Live here, including every stage broadcast as it happens as well as key interviews, features and expert analysis from the service park.

Fans were treated to demonstration runs by almost 20 classic cars

More Vodafone Rally de Portugal news