Saturday | 23 May 2015

SS10: Meeke closes on Portugal lead

A second consecutive victory in Saturday morning’s final stage moved Kris Meeke to within striking distance of leader Jari-Matti Latvala at Vodafone Rally de Portugal.

Stage info: SS10

Fridão 1, 37.67km
The rally’s longest stage has a tricky opening. It’s wide, fast and flowing but there are plenty of corners among trees which are close to the road. The roads are smooth with a fine layer of gravel on top, but there are also short sections of asphalt and cobbles. It’s easy to imagine this could be a stage in either Sardinia or Australia.

The Northern Irishman won the test by 2.4sec from Sébastien Ogier. More importantly for Citroën’s DS 3 driver, he was 5.1sec faster than Latvala to close to within 6.1sec of the Volkswagen Polo R driver.

Meeke’s mix of three soft and two hard compound Michelin tyres worked well through the three stage loop, although he expected Latvala’s package to work better in this test.

However, all was not well with the Finn. “The fight is good and I’m happy with my tyre choice, but I hit a rock really hard about 7km from the end. I had a feeling that the tyre was going flat but it was OK. I hesitated after that and lost my rhythm,” he said.

Third-placed Andreas Mikkelsen conceded 6.6sec to team-mate Sébastien Ogier, who was second fastest, and the Norwegian’s advantage over the championship leader was down to 3.8sec.

“It wasn’t a perfect tyre strategy for the morning but nobody had that,” said Ogier. “I started the day with three cars sweeping the road ahead of me in the running order, but now there’s only one. I had a chance of gaining time even with two cars ahead, but with one it’s difficult.”

Ott Tänak held fifth in a Ford Fiesta RS with Dani Sordo, Mads Østberg and Hayden Paddon fighting over sixth. Sordo’s Hyundai i20 was 0.3sec ahead of the Norwegian, with Paddon a further 8.6sec behind in another i20. Robert Kubica and Martin Prokop completed the leaderboard.

Lorenzo Bertelli retired after rolling his Fiesta RS.

More News