Friday | 11 Apr 2014

Rally de Portugal Driver report: Part 3

Robert Kubica. Ford Fiesta RS WRC
Portugal was where Kubica’s WRC journey began in 2013, so there were high hopes that his prior experience of the stages would help him this time. It didn’t. Instead, the beleaguered Pole racked up another two crashes and his fourth DNF from five championship outings in a World Rally Car. “Right now I am going through a difficult period of my life, even though I've had worse times,” he said. “I think I must somehow reset myself and try to approach rallies the way I did at the very beginning, twelve months ago. I really hope we will have a much better rally in Argentina.” So do we.

Andreas Mikkelsen. Volkswagen Polo R.
After a miserable Rally Mexico, Mikkelsen’s aim was to reboot his confidence with a trouble free run. No rally driver wants to tiptoe through the stages, but this was Mikkelsen’s mission in Portugal and he showed great self-control – as well as a bit of frustration – as he sought to get the Polo R home cleanly. His decision to prepare a new set of pace notes wasn’t helped by the torrential rain on the recce, which meant he didn’t have a lot of faith in the set he ended up with. A cautious approach netted fourth place, but a distant 4m50s behind his team-mate Ogier. Mission accomplished, let’s hope he’s allowed off the leash in Argentina.

Khalid Al Qassimi. Citroen DS3 WRC
This was the fifth attempt at Rally de Portugal for Al Qassimi, but he was unable to match the top ten finishes he has achieved three times before. Back in a DS3 WRC for the first time since Sweden, Al Qassimi never really got to grips with the inconsistent road surface – especially on the opening two days. Unsure of the amount of grip available in the slippery mud, he lacked the confidence to push. Spent a lot of time experimenting with different set-ups to try and improve things but with limited success.

Dani Sordo. Hyundai i20 WRC
He didn’t make it to the finish but this was still another great rally for Sordo. Surprised many by leading the rally after the third stage, thanks to two stage wins in the fledgling i20. Helped by a decent road position, and stage conditions that seemed to suit the car, he continued to set some eye-catching stage times and came into the final day fourth overall, just 20 seconds from the podium. Robbed of a chance to fight by a drive shaft failure - the same problem that affected Neuville on the last stage – his performance was good enough to warrant another outing in Argentina.

Henning Solberg. Ford Fiesta RS WRC
Fifth place was a strong result for Henning, especially as his most recent event on gravel in a World Rally Car was at Rally GB 2011. Despite limited testing, he traded times with the factory team drivers and was resolutely cheerful at stage ends, even when the conditions were worrying his rivals “Give me a couple of days testing and I’ll be beating these young guys again, I can tell you that!” said the 41-year old, who claims to be “an old guy, but very motivated.” Sponsors take note; this is a man who deserves more outings this year.