Sébastien Ogier led a Volkswagen 1-2-3 in the opening stage of Rally de Portugal in Lisbon tonight.
Ogier was fastest by 1.3sec in a Polo R through the 3.27km test on cobbles and asphalt at Praco do Imperio from birthday boy Jari-Matti Latvala, with Andreas Mikkelsen a further 0.9sec back.
“It’s a good start but the real stuff starts tomorrow,” said Ogier. “We’re here to win the rally but it won’t be easy.”
Huge crowds packed the test, in the shadow of the Jerónimos Monastery UNESCO World Heritage Site, where competitors spent several hours this afternoon following the start at Estoril’s Casino Gardens.
Thierry Neuville was best of the rest in fourth in his Hyundai i20, 2.9sec behind Ogier. Kris Meeke, whose co-driver Paul Nagle is suffering with an upset stomach, and Mikko Hirvonen completed the top six.
All the top drivers opted for soft compound tyres except Hyundai’s Dani Sordo. The Spaniard was happy to cede a few seconds to save his allocation of soft rubber in case the cool and wet weather continues into the rally.
Competitors make the long journey back to Faro tonight. Tomorrow’s leg restarts at 09.00 for two identical loops of six stages covering 136.38km in the hills north-west of Faro. The two loops are split by service at the Algarve Stadium and the day ends there at 18.55.