Ostberg mixing it with the leaders in Portugal
"I’m pleased with how the day went"
Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson ended day one of Rally de Portugal in fourth place in the overall standings. At their first appearance in the Portuguese round of the World Rally Championship, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle were running in the top ten when they went off on the final stage of the day. In the third Citroën DS3 WRC entered by the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team, Khalid Al Qassimi and Chris Patterson headed back to Faro in sixteenth place.
A few days after the hugely popular Fafe Rally Sprint organised in the north of the country and which thrilled around a hundred thousand spectators, the crews were in the Algarve for the start of Rally de Portugal.
After recce was severely hampered by heavy rain and flash floods, the WRC drivers set off from Estoril before taking part in the first super special stage held in the streets of Lisbon. Three hundred kilometres further south, the rally proper got underway this morning on roads which remained damp in most places.
Former winner Mads Østberg managed the difficulties presented by the road conditions to finish among the leaders on each stage. At the end of the first leg, a day during which he grew in confidence and was able to adjust the set-up of his Citroën DS3 WRC, he stood in fourth position.
Like in Sweden and in Mexico, Kris Meeke was tackling the specific features of Rally de Portugal for the first time. The conditions during recce hadn’t made it easy for him to learn about the roads at World Championship pace. The Briton was concentrating on trying to add to his experience. However, he went off the road on the day’s final stage when running in the top ten. The technical team is currently assessing whether he’ll be able to rejoin under Rally 2 rules tomorrow.
Khalid Al Qassimi worked extensively with the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team on his car’s set-up to try and find the right feeling. Held up on SS4 after another car went off the road, he ended the day in sixteenth overall.
Saturday’s leg features seven stages. Crews will set off at 8.30am from Faro, covering a total of 470 kilometres, with 146km of timed sections. After SS13, the competitors will drive their cars into parc ferme at 8.05pm.
Mads Østberg: “It was a good day. We managed to stay with the leaders. We lost a bit of time on the first stage of the second loop. I don’t think we made the right tyre choice. We went for hard tyres but the roads were still pretty damp. But it wasn’t an easy call to make. I’m pleased with how the day went and it looks good for tomorrow.”
Kris Meeke: “We braked a bit late into a right-hand corner. It was a spot where there wasn’t much grip and where Elfyn Evans went off this morning. The notes just weren’t accurate enough.”
Khalid Al Qassimi: “We worked on the set-up of the Citroën DS3 WRC throughout the day. I had a better feeling and was more comfortable in the afternoon. We made some changes to the springs, the clicks and adjusted the ride height. I was able to push more in the quick sections and remain cautious in the narrower, more technical sections. I know I can go more quickly but I don’t want to put myself under pressure. We’re going to keep working on the car to prepare for tomorrow.”
Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal): “Recce suggested that the rally was going to be particularly difficult. And the first leg proved to be just that, with several WRC crews going off today. Mads managed to be consistent whilst setting times close to those of the leaders. He is well placed for the rest of the rally. He must be cautious to ensure he makes it to the end, but we’re convinced he has what it takes to finish on the podium. Kris had more trouble. He had to learn about the stages as he went and had been cautious through the day but then got caught out on the last stage. We hope he’ll be able to rejoin tomorrow under Rally 2 rules.”
HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED
SS1 – SSS Lisboa (3.27km) – After setting off from Estoril, the crews tackled a super special stage through the streets of Lisbon that has become something of a classic. Sébastien Ogier claimed the stage win. Kris Meeke finished fifth, whilst Mads Østberg was ninth and Khalid Al Qassimi was twelfth.
SS2 – Silves 1 (21.50km) – Back in the Algarve, the crews attacked the first of the gravel stages. Twelfth on the road, Dani Sordo went quickest. Fifth fastest, Mads Østberg moved up the standings. Kris Meeke ended the stage in thirteenth position and Khalid Al Qassimi finished in nineteenth.
SS3 – Ourique 1 (25.04km) – Dani Sordo grabbed the overall lead with another stage win. Mads Østberg picked up another fifth fastest time. Kris Meeke moved closer to the top 10 whilst Khalid Al Qassimi ended the stage twentieth overall.
SS4 – Almodôvar 1 (26.48km) – Jari-Matti Latvala set the fastest time. Sébastien Ogier reclaimed the overall lead. Mads Østberg grabbed the fourth fastest time, whilst Kris Meeke was tenth. Khalid Al Qassimi was given a notional time after being blocked on the stage following Robert Kubica’s off.
SS5 – Silves 2 (21.50km) – Jari-Matti Latvala rolled his car and was forced to retire. Sébastien Ogier extended his lead as he grabbed the stage win. Mads Østberg moved into fifth place in the overall standings and Kris Meeke sneaked into the top 10. Eighteenth fastest time for Khalid Al Qassimi.
SS6 – Ourique 2 (25.04km) – Thierry Neuville set the fastest time. Sixth and tenth respectively, Mads Østberg and Kris Meeke held onto their positions. Khalid Al Qassimi set the eighteenth fastest time.
SS7 – Almodôvar 2 (26.48km) – Mikko Hirvonen won the final stage of the day, taking him into the overall lead, ahead of Tanak and Ogier. Mads Østberg moved up into fourth position. Kris Meeke was forced to retire after going off on the stage. Khalid Al Qassimi moved up a place into sixteenth overall.
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