Sat 13 May 2023

Controlled Solberg keeps WRC2 rivals at bay

Oliver Solberg remains in control of the WRC2 category at Vodafone Rally de Portugal despite Saturday’s penultimate leg serving up some drama for the Swede.

The 21-year-old finished Friday with a comfortable 50.2-second advantage over Gus Greensmith’s similar Škoda, but he saw that margin whittled down to 35.4sec by close of play.

Solberg gave away over 10sec with a spin in the Vieira do Minho opener and he found it difficult to manage the wear of his Pirelli tyres. A mystery issue which sapped vital engine power struck in SS12 while Greensmith, in contrast, posted a string of top-three stage times aboard his Fabia RS.

"It's great to be here," Solberg said. "It's been a good day - consistent, but also super-rough this afternoon so we were just taking it steady."

After suffering a puncture on Friday, Škoda returnee Andreas Mikkelsen made major gains in his comeback mission. The Norwegian poached third overall from Yohan Rossel in Vieira do Minho 2, trailing Greensmith by 53.0sec at close of play.

Rossel’s Citroën C3 was hampered by a damaged suspension damper in the morning and the Frenchman never really posed a threat to those ahead. Hindered by a handbrake issue, Teemu Suninen completed the top five in a Hyundai i20 N ahead of Marco Bulacia, who stopped to change a wheel in Amarante 2.

Bolivian Bulacia tops the WRC2 Challenger contingent. In the Masters Cup, for drivers over the age of 50, it’s Alexander Villanueva who leads the way.

Georg Linnamäe and Fabrizio Zaldivar both crashed their Hyundais into retirement, while local driver Miguel Correia suffered engine failure on his Fabia. Armin Kremer, driving a similar car, also retired with broken wheel studs.

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