Rally de Portugal WRC 2 winner Nasser Al-Attiyah has revealed how a SMS text message received just before the final stage inspired him to see off Jari Ketomaa’s challenge.
The Qatari approached the final Loulé test seemingly with a 10.8sec advantage in his Ford Fiesta RRC over the Finn, after a fierce battle that raged since the opening kilometres three days earlier.
However, organisers belatedly credited Ketomaa with 10sec after he was delayed behind Max Rendina’s Mitsubishi Lancer on Friday morning, and Al-Attiyah’s lead was reduced to 0.8sec with just the 13.83km test remaining.
The decision came too late to advise Ketomaa, but Al-Attiyah learned just in time and went fastest to win by 11.6sec.
“We were leading by 10 seconds before the last stage and suddenly we receive an SMS to say we were just 0.8 from Jari. We decided to push and we won by 11 seconds. This was difficult for us. It’s easy to make mistakes when you are pushing to the maximum,” said Al Attiyah.
Co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini admitted it was an all or nothing charge. “Me and Nasser, we tighten the belts and push like hell,” he said.
Victory was a special moment for Bernacchini – it was 40 years since his father, Arnaldo, won the rally alongside Raffaele Pinto in a Fiat Abarth 124 Rallye.
“Exactly 40 years ago my father won the rally here, so for me and my father I’m so happy. My aim is to win one rally like him. It’s nice to win WRC 2 here 40 years after my father, it’s a brilliant moment,” said Bernacchini.