Portugal, SS1: Tänak claims opening spoils
Estonian edges M-Sport duo in Portugal opener
Ott Tänak charged to fastest time in Thursday night’s opening Vodafone Rally de Portugal speed test at Lousada rallycross circuit.
In front of 30,000 fans basking in evening sunshine, he defeated Andreas Mikkelsen in their head-to-head heat around the mixed surface track to dethrone long-time leader Teemu Suninen from the top of the leaderboard.
Tänak’s Toyota Yaris was 0.4sec quicker around the sweeping 3.36km stage than the Finn and M-Sport Ford Fiesta team-mate Sébastien Ogier, who matched Suninen’s time.
Suninen outpaced Hayden Paddon, returning after missing the last three WRC rounds, while Ogier was more than a second quicker than Thierry Neuville in the evening’s headline heat.
Tänak dictated the previous round in Argentina but acknowledged a repeat is unlikely this weekend.
“It will be tough to dominate here. We know how loose the roads will be tomorrow and there will be a lot more cleaning than in Argentina. It will be key tomorrow to get a good position so we can fight hard on Saturday,” he said.
Citroën C3 pilot Kris Meeke and Mikkelsen, driving a Hyundai i20, were fourth, a full second behind the tying Ford pair. Neuville completed the top six.
Jari-Matti Latvala dropped almost four seconds after stalling his Yaris in a hairpin. “Under braking the engine cut completely. There’s something strange happening with the engine and we need to investigate that. It doesn’t worry me, but it annoys me," he said.
M-Sport Ford mechanics replaced the cooling pack in Elfyn Evans’ Fiesta before this evening’s start at Guimaräes Castle after damage caused by a heavy landing in this morning’s shakedown.
Friday’s first full day is based close to the Spanish border. Two identical loops of three stages are split by service in Matosinhos, before the leg ends with two short street tests in central Porto. The eight stages cover 148.66km.
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