Friday | 04 Apr 2014

Rally de Portugal Friday update #6

In summary

Mikko Hirvonen leads Rally de Portugal by 3.7sec after snatching the lead in the final test. Ott Tanak holds second with Sebastien Ogier third a further 2.8sec behind.

Conditions were tricky and it was a tale of woe for many. Jari-Matti Latvala, Kris Meeke, Elfyn Evans and Robert Kubica all crashed out.

Here are the biggest stories of the day:

Update #5: Meeke crashes

Kris Meeke joined the lengthy list of retirements when he crashed his Citroen DS3 in today’s final stage (SS7).

The Briton went off the road in the 26.48km Almodôvar stage at the same point at which Elfyn Evans rolled his Ford Fiesta Rs this morning.

Meeke appeared concerned about that section of road as he was reportedly asking other drivers before the stage start if they knew exactly where Evans had crashed.

Update #4: Latvala rolls

Jari-Matti Latvala’s Rally de Portugal curse struck again when the Finn rolled out of second place midway through the 21.80km Silves test (SS5).

Latvala, second in his Volkswagen Polo R and just 0.4sec behind team-mate Sébastien Ogier, was 1.3sec up on his colleague when he crashed 11.6km into the afternoon’s opening test. Latvala could not continue but both he and co-driver Miikka Anttila were unhurt.

Latvala had a massive accident on this rally in 2009 when he plunged almost 200 metres down a hillside after rolling 12 times, and crashed again the following year.

Many top drivers, including Mikko Hirvonen, Thierry Neuville, Ott Tänak, Dani Sordo and Juho Hänninen opted for soft tyres but were surprised by how dry and abrasive it was on the second pass. Their tyres were wearing already and there were big concerns about the effect the warm and drier conditions would have on the remaining two tests.

Those using the more durable hard Michelin compound tyres, however, included Sébastien Ogier and Citroen duo Mads Østberg and Kris Meeke.

Update #3: Kubica and Evans out

Robert Kubica - blocked the road

Robert Kubica’s awful season took another turn for the worse when the Pole crashed his Ford Fiesta RS in the 26.48km Almodôvar test (SS4).

Kubica was 11km from the finish when he hit a tree while cutting a bend and the impact ripped a front wheel from the car. It came to rest blocking the road and a host of drivers, including Juho Hänninen and Khalid Al Qassimi, manhandled it out of the way before driving slowly to the finish.

Organisers cancelled the stage and those that were delayed or didn’t complete the test will receive a notional time.

Elfyn Evans - rolled down a bank

That could be a lucky break for Hänninen. Before reaching the blockage, the Finn stopped for more than two minutes to change a puncture and the stewards will decide whether to factor that delay into his notional time.

Elfyn Evans was another to fall foul of Almodôvar. The Welshman rolled several times 17km into the stage, his Fiesta RS ending at the bottom of a steep bank. TV crews report he missed a braking point and hit a bank.

Amid the drama, Sébastien Ogier regained the lead and heads team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala by 0.4sec.

Update #2: Sordo moves ahead

What a morning for Hyundai!

After Dani Sordo gave the Korean manufacturer’s 2014 squad its first fastest time in today’s opening Silves test, a second win in the shortened 20.21km Ourique (SS3) propelled the team into the lead of a WRC event for the first time.

The Spaniard was quickest by 4.0sec from Ott Tänak to move his i20 into the lead by 2.8sec over the Estonian’s Ford Fiesta RS.

Henning Solberg dropped more than 20sec after a puncture on the rear left of his Ford Fiesta RS.

The Norwegian, seventh fastest through the opening stage this morning, picked up the flat shortly after the midpoint. “I was quite fast at the beginning. The puncture happened 8km before the end, on a straight section. I don't know what happened,” he said.

Sébastien Ogier is finding it hard opening the road in his Volkswagen Polo R and the Frenchman slipped to third overall. “I'm not so happy with the car, and that’s not helped by carrying two spare wheels. But that’s a team decision - not mine.”

Update #1: Hyundai claims maiden stage victory

Hyundai claimed its first stage victory in the WRC when Dani Sordo topped the timesheets in this morning’s opening 21.50km Silves.

The Spaniard was fastest by 1.3sec, despite the right rear window on his i20 popping out in the test. Sordo reported slight understeer, but the handling issues afflicting team-mate Thierry Neuville were bigger.

“I struggled like hell with understeer. It’s moving too much and I don’t feel too confident at the moment,” said the Belgian, who was 11th fastest and planned to work on the set-up before the following Ourique test.

Andreas Mikkelsen was almost 23sec behind Sordo, the Norwegian admitting to a cautious start in his Volkswagen Polo R following a roll at the last round in Mexico. “I need to rebuild my confidence. I need to use my head and build the speed gradually,” he said.

It’s going to be a long day for Paul Nagle, co-driver in Kris Meeke’s Citroen DS3. He is struggling with a stomach upset and didn’t eat at all yesterday.