Estonia’s Sander Pärn won the opening round of the Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy today after an unpredictable battle at Rally de Portugal where the lead swapped five times
Pärn moved into first place early this morning when overnight leader Quentin Gilbert retired after a road accident on his way to the first stage.
Pärn, 23, found himself locked in a final day duel with Briton Tom Cave. After a slow start on SS15, which allowed Cave to move into a 0.4 second lead, Pärn upped the pace to take the opening round victory by 20.8 seconds.
More than three minutes further back, Belgium’s Ghislain de Mevius finished third after a trouble-free run on his WRC debut.
It was a dramatic finish to the opening round of the all-new series, in which drivers compete in identical M-Sport-prepared Ford Fiesta R2 rally cars shod with DMACK tyres.
Spain’s José Suarez took the early lead at Thursday’s Super Special in Lisbon, but when the rally headed onto the gravel stages in the Serra do Caldeiro hills above Faro, Marius Aasen from Norway moved ahead. However, he was sidelined with broken steering as exposed bedrock battered the Fiestas.
On Saturday Yeray Lemes took the battle to Suarez with the pair locked in a day-long fight before a double retirement on the 31.9km Santana da Serra stage. Lemes was first to go after pulling a rear wheel off his car while Suarez ended up in a deep ditch after clipping the inside of a corner. This put Gilbert into the lead until his shock retirement left Parn out front.
Suarez fought back to fourth but boosted his championship position by taking an additional five points awarded for fastest stage times. He ends the rally second in the championship.
Max Vatanen, son of 1981 world champion Ari, began the rally as one of the favourites, but failed to finish. He started well, with two fastest times on the opening day, but he rolled soon after. He had a road accident on Saturday and then retired again today after sliding off.
Find full results, series standings and more information at drivedmack.com