Saturday | 21 May 2016

SS14: Mikkelsen poised for second

Andreas Mikkelsen moved within touching distance of claiming second place from team-mate Sébastien Ogier at Vodafone Rally de Portugal on Friday afternoon.

Stage info: SS13 / 14

SS13: Baião 2, 18.66km
Saturday afternoon’s opener has two different characteristics. It’s narrow throughout, but the first half is fast between high banks, while the second part is more twisty and slower. The surface is sandy, except for a small section of asphalt. It claimed big-name victims in 2015, with Thierry Neuville rolling and Elfyn Evans ripping a wheel from his car.

SS14: Marão 2, 26.31km
A contender for the most picturesque stage of the season. The opening half climbs on a fast, sandy surface to the rally’s high point at 1222 metres, with hills on one side of the road and fields and big drops on the other. The second part is no less stunning with a fast, wide descent, twisting between big boulders in a slower section at 14km.

The Norwegian upped his pace this morning to move into a podium position and fastest time through the second passes of Baião and Marão moved him to within half a second of Ogier.

“We had a really good drive in both stages, no mistakes and a clean run. The second one was close to perfect,” said Mikkelsen.

Road opener Ogier seemed powerless to fend off his colleague. “Conditions are better than yesterday afternoon but rougher than this morning. It’s not easy and I’m struggling with the grip. There’s more cleaning than this morning,” he said.

Kris Meeke tried to protect his comfortable lead by packing two spare wheels into the rear of Citroën’s DS 3 but found the extra weight made things tricky.

“I’m thinking about safety a little bit. The balance is difficult with two spares when the roads are narrow with quick changes of direction. The first stage was a bit harder than we expected but the next wasn’t too bad,” said Meeke, who set fourth and fifth fastest times to leave his lead over Ogier at 57.7sec.

Fourth-placed Dani Sordo fell back from Mikkelsen in his Hyundai i20 with Eric Camilli fifth and Jari-Matti Latvala sixth after claiming second fastest in both stages in his Polo R.

Khalid Al Qassimi stopped in Marão while Jaroslav Melicharek was reported to have rolled his Ford Fiesta RS.  

WRC 2 leader Pontus Tidemand lost the lead after changing a puncture in his Skoda Fabia R5, handing Nicolas Fuchs a 2.6sec advantage.  

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