Wednesday | 24 May 2017

Vodafone Rally de Portugal: Debrief part 2

First in a run of four European gravel rallies, Portugal is an important form guide for the months ahead. So what did we learn from the roads around Matosinhos? In the second of our two-part debrief, we focus on the moments that mattered.

Save of the rally: Mads Østberg
The jump at the end of the Fafe stage isn't new, so it was a surprise to see so many drivers getting caught out this year. Poor Quentin Gilbert paid the highest price - his Skoda's sumpguard buried in the road as the rest of the car flipped down the stage - but many more experienced drivers came close to doing the same.

The usually ultra reliable Khalid Al Qassimi had a very squirrelly landing in his Citroën, but we reckon the best save was from Mads Østberg [above], whose Fiesta took off like a rocket and landed very awkwardly on top of the distance marker boards - much to the hilarity of Mads and his co-driver. 

Quote of the rally: Craig Breen
When it comes to stage-end quotes, an upbeat Craig Breen is always worth a listen, and he was at his poetic best in Portugal. Fond of explaining the Playstation-like feeling he gets from his Citroën, sometimes his comments: transcend motorsport altogether. Our favourite from Portugal came after Stage 3 when he got lyrical with: "I'm on the top of the world looking down on creation." Nice.

Turning point: SS12
The first pass through the rally's longest stage, Saturday's 37km Amarante, brought an end to Ott Tänak's reign as rally leader and handed the place to his team-mate Sébastien Ogier. Tänak had a 6.5sec lead when he was caught out under braking, ran wide and clattered his Ford Fiesta into a bank, damaging the suspension and smashing his brakes. The mistake cost Tänak more than a minute and demoted him to fifth. Ogier emerged from the stage with a 19.5sec lead over nearest rival Neuville - a margin he managed right to the end.

You'll never believe it: Andreas Mikkelsen
Having dominated WRC 2 from the word go, Mikkelsen began the final Power Stage with a lead of more than three minutes and another 25-points all but in the bag. And then it all went wrong. A rock strike in a second-gear corner flipped his Skoda around and forced him out. The incident had echoes of Meeke's Power Stage off in Mexico, but without the happy ending.



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