SS2: Tänak stops, Paddon leads

Ott Tänak’s hopes of repeating last month’s stunning Argentina victory at Vodafone Rally de Portugal were dashed in Friday morning’s opening speed test when he stopped after hitting a rock.

Stage info: SS2

Viana do Castelo 1, 26.73km
This is the fastest test of the day and one with plenty of loose surface gravel to hinder early starters. It begins on a sandy surface before a short section of cobblestones at 4.6km. There are several other surface changes and plenty of climbing before the road narrows in the second half, with twisty sections among trees.

Tänak was 6.7km into the Viana do Castelo stage close to the Spanish border when he pulled his Toyota Yaris to the roadside. In-car footage captured the Estonian reporting high engine oil temperatures to his team in the Matosinhos service park.

Toyota Gazoo Racing’s sporting director Kaj Lindström explained: “We know Ott hit a rock and damaged the cooling system of the car. The mechanics are preparing the cooling system for when he returns so he can start under Rally 2 tomorrow.”

Haydon Paddon set the pace on his return after missing the last three rounds. He was fastest by 2.3sec from Elfyn Evans to head the Welshman by 1.5sec in the standings, but the Kiwi was surprised by his pace.

“The feeling in the car was terrible. I didn’t have the same feeling as in the test. The balance wasn’t good from the driving perspective, very, very ugly. The time was good so I have to be happy with that but we can’t be complacent, we have to improve,” he said.

Evans has endured a disappointing start to the year but that was pushed to the back of his mind. “I was pushing hard to do that but that’s what we came here to do. I worked on a few things and the feeling was OK in the car so I was able to push,” he said.

A jubilant Kris Meeke was third, the Ulsterman saying: “It’s the first time in the Citroën C3 I’ve felt really at home.” He was 3.2sec off Paddon’s pace and 1.7sec faster than Dani Sordo’s Hyundai i20.

Mads Østberg hit a rock midway through and believed the impact affected the pressure in one of his C3’s differentials. The Norwegian was seventh fastest, behind Craig Breen and Teemu Suninen.

The sandy roads cleaned with the pass of every car and championship frontrunners Sébastien Ogier and Thierry Neuville struggled with the loose conditions. Ogier was eighth in his Ford Fiesta and Neuville ninth.

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