Saturday | 23 May 2015

SS9: Latvala survives Portugal error

Jari-Matti Latvala retained his Vodafone Rally de Portugal lead through Saturday’s opening two stages, but Volkswagen team-mate Sébastien Ogier was the man on the move as he climbed to fourth.

Stage info: SS8 / SS9

SS8: Baião 1, 18.57km
Saturday’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.

SS9: Marão 1, 26.30km
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 a big drop 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.

Latvala overshot a junction in the opening Baião in his Polo R but recovered to set second fastest time in the slippery Marão.

“I was too fast into a left corner and had to use the handbrake to turn around,” he said. “The next one was very, very tricky. I thought I was driving slowly because it was so slippery but it seems everyone felt like that.”

Andreas Mikkelsen won the opener to relegate Citroën’s Kris Meeke from second, but the Briton retaliated to win Marão and regained position by 0.2sec, despite a lucky escape.

“I had a big moment,” explained the DS 3 driver (below). “I had a wrong pace note for a corner. I expected it to be fifth gear, but it was fourth. We were quite lucky but that’s what happens on a new rally with new notes.”

Second and third fastest times promoted Ogier from sixth to fourth and the Frenchman is 21.8sec off Latvala’s lead.

Thierry Neuville rolled his Hyundai i20 less than 3km into Baião. The Belgian’s car came to rest in the road in a narrow section and team-mate Dani Sordo lost 10sec nudging it out of the way.

Elfyn Evans broke the front right suspension on his Ford Fiesta RS after hitting a rock in the same stage. The car briefly caught fire but the Welshman and co-driver Dan Barritt quickly doused the flames using fire extinguishers and gravel.

Hayden Paddon overshot a junction, Lorenzo Bertelli spun once in the opener and twice in the next stage and Martin Prokop punctured the rear right tyre on his Fiesta RS after hitting a rock.

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