Andreas Mikkelsen claimed a clean sweep of speed test victories in Friday’s opening leg of Vodafone Rally de Portugal to build a commanding lead in WRC 2.
The Norwegian won all eight special stages in his Skoda Fabia R5 to add to last night’s success in the curtain-raising super special stage. He led by 1min 04.5sec lead from Teemu Suninen, with team-mate Pontus Tidemand 2.3sec adrift in third.
Such was the pace of Mikkelsen, who won both his previous WRC 2 outings this season in Monte-Carlo and Corsica, that he was fifth quickest overall through the first pass of the day-ending Braga street stage.
“This was pretty much a perfect day,” he said. “It has been about finding a balance between driving fast and looking after the car on the rough roads.”
Suninen, driving a Ford Fiesta R5, and Tidemand were closely-matched. Twice they traded places and although Suninen’s advantage climbed to 11.5sec, Tidemand trimmed the margin back through the final three stages.
The leading trio were in a league of their own. Fourth-placed Quentin Gilbert was almost four minutes off the lead in his Fabia R5 with Pierre Louis-Loubet and Eric Camilli rounding off the top six in Fiestas.
Loubet lost time with a turbo boost valve problem, while Camilli conceded more than a minute with broken power steering in the final dirt road stage near the Spanish border.
The rough conditions took a heavy toll on competitors and retirements included Yohan Rossel, Yoann Bonato, Takamoto Katsuta, Emil Bergkvist and Fabio Andolfi.
Gus Greensmith twice posted top three times but a broken rear differential cost almost seven minutes and denied him a top six place. Benito Guerra lost several minutes with a broken throttle pedal, while Hiroki Arai fell back with a broken wheel.
Head to WRC+ to see the latest onboard and video reports from Vodafone Rally de Portugal.