Meeke: It really is a very special feeling to win here
Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle win Rally de Portugal
Leaders from from the second stage to the end, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle produced a masterful performance at Rally de Portugal to claim their second World Championship win. This win, Citroën’s 95th victory in the WRC, was just rewards for the hard work of the Abu Dhabi Total WRT at its first gravel rally of the season. Having rejoined this morning under Rally2 regulations, Stéphane Lefebvre/Gabin Moreau and Khalid Al Qassimi/Chris Patterson made it to the final podium.
The Abu Dhabi Total WRT crews’ day started before sunrise this morning, with service at 5.15am for Stéphane Lefebvre! As overnight rainfall had softened the gravel roads, all the drivers had no hesitation in fitting soft compound Michelin LTX Force tyres for the rally’s closing four stages.
Armed with a healthy 45.3-second advantage, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle could afford to manage their lead. Whilst Andreas Mikkelsen dislodged Sébastien Ogier from second place, the Citroën Racing crew controlled proceedings at the front. After the first runs on Vieira do Minho and Fafe, they still held a 35.5s lead.
The no. 7 crews didn’t change their strategy for the final two tests. At the end of the Fafe stage, Kris and Paul could final relax after claiming their second win in the WRC, finishing 29.7s ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen!
After rejoining this morning under Rally2 rules, Stéphane Lefebvre and Khalid Al Qassimi had an uneventful day. The young Frenchman ended the event on a high, grabbing the fifth fastest time on the Power Stage.
After this great result, the Abu Dhabi Total WRT will now focus on the next event on its calendar. Two cars will be entered at the forthcoming Rally Poland (30 June-3 July) for Stéphane Lefebvre/Gabin Moreau and Craig Breen/Scott Martin.
Kris Meeke (#7): “First and foremost, I must thank the entire team and PH Sport for the work done this weekend. We have secured this win against top-level competition so the performance is especially important for me as a driver. Before the start, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Although I’ve done a lot of testing over the last few weeks, I was clearly short of competitive mileage. But I managed to drive quickly and led pretty much from start to finish, managing my lead from Saturday afternoon onwards. I was cautious again today, as there were quite a lot of embedded rocks on Fafe, especially on the second pass. It really is a very special feeling to win here. The atmosphere is incredible, with some of noisiest and most passionate fans in the world. They say that getting that first win is a monkey off your back, but it feels like this one is just as important. There aren’t too many drivers that have won a WRC rally, but there are even fewer who have won two! We’re now going to try and build on this result for the next few races and especially in 2017 to be compete at the highest level!”
Stéphane Lefebvre (#8): “I was first on the road last year in Australia. Today was a new experience because the road surface was very different. On the first stage, it took me a few kilometres to understand how the car handled in these conditions. I still had a good stage, more or less matching Neuville’s time. And then I set a good time on Fafe. On the second runs, my times were pretty useful again. There are a lot of positive things to take away from this weekend. This has been the rally where I have been the quickest in a WRC. I hope I can maintain the same kind of pace in Poland.”
Khalid Al-Qassimi (#14): “After the disappointment of retiring yesterday, we had a good day today and made it to the finish. It’s a great day for the Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team, with this superb victory. Congratulations to Kris and Paul, they produced the perfect performance and we secured a deserved result. From Friday onwards, we knew that this result was within our reach, but we treated this rally with the respect it deserves right to the finish. It’s a great confidence boost for us, with Citroën Racing in the midst of development work on the new car for 2017.”
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