Saturday | 23 May 2015

Al-Attiyah holds off Skoda duo in WRC 2

Nasser Al-Attiyah stretched his lead in WRC 2 at Vodafone Rally de Portugal on Saturday despite a double-pronged attack from Skoda’s Esapekka Lappi and Pontus Tidemand.

The Qatari, driving a Ford Fiesta RRC, was 49.0sec clear of Lappi, with Tidemand a further 16.1sec behind in third. Both Skoda drivers are in the Czech manufacturer’s Fabia R5, which is making its WRC debut on the four-day gravel event.

Lappi, fifth yesterday, won all three morning stages to climb to third behind Tidemand, who slashed his deficit to Al-Attiyah to 13.6sec. But the reigning champion responded by winning all three afternoon tests to pull clear again.

“The afternoon was better than the morning. Maybe the conditions better suit my driving style. I’m glad to finish the day and hope we can make a good time on the long stage tomorrow,” said Al-Attiyah.

Lappi moved ahead of Tidemand when his team-mate suffered brake problems. But the Finn was lucky to survive the final two stages with a cracked rear suspension wishbone.

Esapekka Lappi - won three stages

A spin and two further mistakes cost Yazeed Al Rajhi his overnight second, and the Saudi Arabian later retired his Fiesta RRC after hitting a rock.

Karl Kruuda, who led yesterday before problems, recovered to fourth before he hit the same rock and punctured. A roll later ended his challenge.

Stéphane Lefebvre was fourth in Citroën’s DS 3 R5, almost 90sec behind Tidemand. Julien Maurin, who hit the same rock as Al Rajhi and Kruuda, was fifth with Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari completing the top six.

Series leader Jari Ketomaa was seventh after breaking the rear right suspension arm on his Fiesta R5 after hitting a wall.

Max Rendina rolled out and Marco Tempestini stopped with broken steering, while brake problems delayed Anders Grondal.

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