Thursday | 11 May 2017

Portugal countdown: 2016 rewind

A fine comeback, flames and a nail-biting finale - we begin our build-up to Vodafone Rally de Portugal [18 - 21 May] with a look back at what happened at last year's edition.

Friday 20 May

Four-time Portugal winner Sébastien Ogier led after Thursday's super special, but Kris Meeke [above] streaked ahead when the proper stage action began on Friday. The Briton, returning to the WRC after missing the previous two rounds, claimed five stage wins in Citroën's DS 3 to head Ogier's Volkswagen Polo R by 31.9sec.

Paddon's rally went up in flames on Friday.

Meeke benefited from good grip on clean roads thanks to a low start position. In contrast, road opener Ogier endured the worst of the conditions as he cleaned the loose gravel stages. An inspired Dani Sordo demoted the Frenchman from second before a puncture dropped him to third, 5.4sec behind in his Hyundai i20.

A cautious approach paid dividends for Andreas Mikkelsen who was fourth in a Polo R, ahead of Thierry Neuville, who climbed the order after a similarly cautious start in his Hyundai. Stéphane Lefebvre was sixth despite a puncture in his DS 3.

Hayden Paddon and Ott Tänak both retired in dramatic circumstances. Both rolled at the same place in the afternoon and their cars caught fire. Paddon's i20 burned out in minutes while locals helped Ford Fiesta RS driver Tänak fight the flames with a hose pipe to save his car. Both drivers and co-drivers were unhurt.

Jari-Matti Latvala was also in trouble. The Finn was fourth until he hit a hole and broke his Polo R’s power steering, dropping more than three minutes.

Saturday 21 May

Meeke tightened his grip on the lead during Saturday's leg. He completed a clean sweep of wins in the morning stages to extend his lead over Ogier to almost a minute then measured his pace over rougher afternoon roads to end the day 45.3sec ahead

Again first on the road, Ogier found himself under attack from team-mate Mikkelsen who abandoned his cautious policy to pass Sordo and reduce the deficit to Ogier to just half a second. The Frenchman retaliated on the final stage and increased the gap to 3.1sec.

Sordo complained of a lack of stability at the rear of his Hyundai i20 and ended 31.6sec behind Mikkelsen in fourth. Eric Camilli surged up to fifth in his Ford Fiesta RS while Latvala recovered to sixth. On the AWOL list were Neuville who retired from fifth after running out of fuel and Lefebvre who exited sixth after hitting a rock.

Sunday 22 May

Meeke held on to take victory by 29.7sec. It was the Northern Irishman's second win at WRC level and made him the fourth different winner from the season's first five rounds.

Behind him, Mikkelsen sensationally grabbed second from Ogier. Set-up changes to his car inspired the Norwegian who won the opening two stages and finished 4.8sec ahead. Ogier suffered two punctures and with just one spare wheel he compromised his pace to ensure he reached the finish. 

Sordo finished fourth with Camilli taking a career-best fifth in only his fifth start in a World Rally Car. It was a nail-biting finale for the Frenchman who spun in the final stage and almost allowed Latvala to catch him. The final gap was just 5.3sec.


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