Friday | 20 May 2016

SS2: Meeke claims Portugal lead

Kris Meeke claimed the lead of Vodafone Rally de Portugal after winning Friday morning’s opening speed test.

Stage info: SS2

Ponte de Lima 1, 27.44km
Friday’s opener is wide but extremely twisty, with hardly a straight to speak of. After a very short initial asphalt section, the road comprises smooth gravel on top of a clay base. There are a couple more short asphalt stretches where main roads link the gravel sections and far fewer trees – possibly a result of last year’s forest fires. The longest test of the day.

The Briton missed the previous two WRC rounds in Mexico and Argentina but was quickly back into the groove in Citroën’s DS 3 to win the Ponte de Lima special stage by 5.6sec from Sébastien Ogier. It was enough to take a 3.5sec lead over the Frenchman, who was fastest in last night’s curtain raiser at Lousada rallycross circuit.

“The road was cutting up quite badly and I didn’t have a clean run,” explained Meeke. “I made four or five small mistakes, I was a bit rusty.”

Road opener Ogier was surprised by the high grip. “The conditions were OK but I made a mistake with the set-up and struggled a lot with understeer. It was too soft,” said the Volkswagen Polo R pilot, who had no recurrence of last night’s boost problem.

Dani Sordo was third, the Hyundai i20 driver faster than Ogier all the way through the test until falling behind in the final section. “I wanted to save the tyres because it’s a little warm,” explained the Spaniard, who was 8.1sec behind Meeke.

Hayden Paddon was fourth, despite feeling his i20’s engine was not pulling properly, while a steady Andreas Mikkelsen and Jari-Matti Latvala completed the top six. In contrast to team-mate Ogier, Latvala expected conditions to be drier and his car’s set-up was too stiff.  

An overly-cautious Thierry Neuville dropped more than 30sec, the Belgian admitting he was trying to rebuild his confidence after a series of troubled rallies.

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