Friday | 22 May 2015

SS2: Sordo fastest to claim lead

Dani Sordo won Friday’s opening stage at Vodafone Rally de Portugal to move into a slender lead at this fifth round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

Stage info: SS2

Ponte de Lima 1, 27.53km
Parts of this stage have been used in the past. After a very short initial asphalt section, the road comprises smooth gravel on top of a clay base. It’s wide but extremely twisty, with hardly a straight to speak of. The final few kilometres are rougher but nothing too worrying. The longest stage of the day.

The Spaniard delighted his legions of fans who had crossed the border to cheer him on by topping the timesheets by 1.3sec in his Hyundai i20. It promoted him above overnight leader Andreas Mikkelsen’s Volkswagen Polo R by 0.1sec.

However, Sordo was not entirely happy, reporting a noise from the i20’s engine and feeling it was down on power.

Ott Tänak was second in the stage in the new Ford Fiesta RS, 1.5sec ahead of Mikkelsen, who continued to enthuse about the 2015-specification Polo R on his first outing in it.

“I was working on my driving style all the way through,” he said. “No risks, just driving and feeling comfortable. It was really, really good. I love it.”

Tänak was one of several drivers to report loose rocks being unearthed from the soft, sandy surface and championship leader Sébastien Ogier punctured the rear right tyre on his Polo R midway through and dropped 12sec.

Kris Meeke and Jari-Matti Latvala were fourth and fifth in Citroën’s DS 3 and a Polo R respectively, to hold the same positions overall ahead of Ogier in sixth.

Thierry Neuville lost more than 30sec but the Belgian said there were no specific issues. “Everything is good, but I had a very bad stage, I couldn't find the rhythm. There were lots of stones and I wanted to be careful with the tyres,” he said.

Elfyn Evans stopped 3km before the finish with an electrical problem on his new Fiesta RS while Martin Prokop had no rear brakes on his similar car.

Organisers and emergency services had earlier fought an 18-hour battle to bring forest fires under control near the stage. Almost 250 people and 60 vehicles were involved.

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