Andreas Mikkelsen increased his WRC 2 lead to more than three minutes at Vodafone Rally de Portugal on Saturday.
Having scored a clean sweep of speed test victories yesterday to build an advantage of more than a minute in a Skoda Fabia R5, the Norwegian was content to manage his lead over dusty gravel tracks in the north of the country.
He won two of the first five special stages to maintain the gap at slightly over a minute, before it soared to 3min 07.1sec following late problems for Teemu Suninen and Pontus Tidemand.
Finn Suninen and Swede Tidemand, team-mate to Mikkelsen, fought tooth and nail over second. Twice the duo swapped places before a dramatic final stage in which both drivers stopped to change punctures after hitting a rock.
Tidemand recovered quickest and he goes into Sunday’s final leg with a 19.1sec advantage over Suninen’s Ford Fiesta R5.
Quentin Gilbert was almost four minutes further back in another Fabia R5, the Frenchman dropping 30sec after overshooting a junction. Simone Tempestini and Miguel Campos completed the top six in a Citroën DS 3 R5 and Fabia R5 respectively.
It was another day of attrition for many. Eric Camilli punctured this morning before stopping in the final stage to remove a stone which became jammed in his Fiesta R5’s front right wheel.
A potential top six finish for Pierre-Louis Loubet evaporated when the Frenchman stopped, fellow Fiesta driver Gus Greensmith lost several minutes with broken power steering and Benito Guerra also retired.
The most dramatic exit befell Hiroki Arai whose Fiesta R5 went off the road in the final stage and vegetation beneath the car caught fire. It was badly damaged in the blaze that followed and the test was halted as a result.
Head to WRC+ to see the latest onboard and video reports from Vodafone Rally de Portugal.