Thursday | 26 May 2016

Portugal driver report: part 2

We look at how the leading drivers coped at the opening European gravel round of the year in Portugal in the second part of our summary.

Hayden Paddon (Hyundai i20)
Result: Retired
From the brilliant high of his maiden win in Argentina last month came a crushing low. A differential issue upset the i20’s balance but the Kiwi contained the time loss and was only 20sec adrift of leader Kris Meeke midway through Friday. Then Paddon hit a big hole in the re-run of Ponte de Lima and plunged backwards into the undergrowth. It wasn’t a big crash but the consequences were as the exhaust ignited the vegetation and the car burned out within minutes.

Dani Sordo (Hyundai i20)
Result: 4th
Hyundai’s Mr Consistent notched his fourth consecutive fourth place finish in what is turning out to be a rather good start to the campaign for the Spaniard. He ended Friday in third behind Meeke and Ogier after a superb drive but was less comfortable on Saturday’s slippier roads and couldn’t hold off a charging Mikkelsen. Fifth in the championship, Sordo must be relishing the clutch of asphalt events later in the year.

Sébastien Ogier (Volkswagen Polo R)
Result: 3rd
Opening the road on dry gravel is something Ogier is well accustomed to. It doesn’t make it any easier but the Frenchman was still more than a match for all but Kris Meeke. That was until team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen pressed the re-set button in his head and rediscovered pace we have not seen for a while. Ogier couldn’t hold him off on Sunday but still left Portugal having increased his championship lead.

Eric Camilli (Ford Fiesta RS)
Result: 5th
Camilli proved a few people wrong with easily his finest drive yet to snare a career-best result. Sure, the attrition rate helped but a third-fastest time on Saturday morning certainly wasn’t down to luck. The Frenchman endured a tough start to the year under the spotlight, but a solid finish in Argentina backed up by fifth in Portugal could be just the spur he needs to kick-start his season.

Mads Østberg (Ford Fiesta RS)
Result: 7th
The upside was that the Norwegian retained third in the points standings. The downside was that there wasn’t too much else to smile about. He lost several minutes on Saturday with a broken driveshaft which left him with front-wheel drive only. But the downshifting issue which has affected his confidence for several rallies returned to haunt him. It’s hard to know exactly where or what the problem is, but it’s something he and M-Sport need to resolve quickly.

Henning Solberg (Ford Fiesta RS)
Result: 27th
Not one of Henning’s best weekends. He was knocking on the door of the top 10 before going off in Friday’s second pass through Viana do Castelo. His Fiesta’s hot exhaust ignited the undergrowth beneath the rear of the car and Solberg had to shed the top section of his flameproof underwear to extinguish it. Fortunately for him the flames were soon out, and happily for all of us he only had to use the top part of his underwear! Returned under Rally 2 rules to complete the event.

Stéphane Lefebvre (DS 3)
Result: 36th
Never put a foot wrong on Friday which he ended in sixth, sandwiched between Thierry Neuville and Mads Østberg. All his good work was undone in Saturday morning’s opener when he clouted a rock and parked the DS 3 with broken front right suspension. He returned under Rally 2 rules on Sunday but all chances of a good result had gone.

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