Saturday | 21 May 2016

SS12: Saturday treble for leader Meeke

Kris Meeke completed a hat-trick of stage victories on Saturday morning at Vodafone Rally de Portugal to carry a lead of more than a minute into mid-leg service.

Stage info: SS12

Amarante 1, 37.67km
The rally’s longest stage has a new name for 2016 - last year it was called Fridao - and a tricky opening. It’s wide, fast and flowing but there are plenty of corners among trees which are close to the road. The surface is smooth with a fine layer of gravel on top, but there are also short stretches of asphalt and cobbles. The middle section runs down one side of a valley before returning up the other side and offers great viewing for spectators.

Having topped the times in Baião and Marão, the Northern Irishman sealed the treble in Amarante, the longest stage of this fifth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, to head Sébastien Ogier by 62.9sec in Citroën’s DS 3.

“I’m feeling even more relaxed than yesterday, when I was a bit rusty in the first couple of stages,” said Meeke, returning to WRC action after a two rally absence. “The stages are definitely cleaning. It’s an advantage to run this far back and I’m going to try to make the most of it.”

Road opener Ogier struggled for grip as he swept the gravel roads in his Volkswagen Polo R and he was third. “I couldn’t do more than that,” said the frustrated Frenchman at the finish.

Andreas Mikkelsen’s decision to abandon his cautious style paid off as the Norwegian was fourth to climb to third overall in his Polo R, demoting Dani Sordo by 4.9sec. The Spaniard struggled in the slippery conditions with a lack of stability at the rear of his Hyundai i20.

Eric Camilli retained fifth in a Ford Fiesta RS, a further 1min 21.7sec behind. Jari-Matti Latvala was second fastest in the stage to move up to sixth overall in a Polo R as he recovered from yesterday’s power steering problems.

Mads Østberg dropped two minutes as his driveshaft issues continued, the Norwegian now with two broken units and slipping back to seventh. WRC 2 leader Pontus Tidemand was eighth with Martin Prokop and Nicolas Fuchs completing the top 10 following Elfyn Evans demise with a roll.

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