S-WRC: Ketomaa ends day one out front
Rally de Portugal - After Day 2
Nasser Al-Attiyah jumped out of his Ford Fiesta S2000, pulled up the bonnet and peered underneath. Something was amiss. After spending the day building a small but significant lead over Jari Ketomaa, the Qatar driver had shipped his advantage and more the way of the Finn on the final test.
Al-Attiyah’s first event back in the Ford Fiesta S2000 after his time in a Skoda Fabia went to plan for the first six stages as the multiple Middle East Rally Champion crafted an early advantage, but heading into the refuel after SS6, he knew something was wrong.
“I felt the steering tighten,” said Al-Attiyah. “So, I filled up the oil in the power steering. It was fine after this, I changed the tyres and drove towards the final stage thinking everything was okay. Then, just when we started the stage the steering went again. I did 21 kilometres with no power steering, it was very tough. When this happened, I said: “Okay, now we drop the speed and get through the stage.” Have you seen my gloves?”
With that, Al-Attiyah disappeared back into the car to retrieve his brand new, but worn out driving gloves. That’s how hard it had been for him to contain the time loss. There was no denying, he’d done a great job to drop just 30 seconds to Ketomaa in Silves second time around.
Ketomaa led the S-WRC section after a solid start and fastest time on SS2, but from then on he was fixed on keeping Al-Attiyah in his sights and maintaining pressure on the leader.
“It’s been okay today,” he said at the close of play on Friday evening in Faro. “I found a rhythm early in the day and stuck with it. This is a long rally and, as we have seen [with Al-Attiyah] anything can happen. The last stage of the day was tough for the tyres, we didn’t have much grip.”
First non-Ford and top Skoda was P-G Andersson. The Swede was just over half a minute off the Al-Attiyah Ford, with Andersson slightly bemused at the results. “I need to find some more speed,” he said. “It feels okay. It feels like I am going at a good pace, but this is not the case. I need to do something.”
S-WRC series leader Xevi Pons, who has yet to finish lower than second on one of these rounds, was fourth taking a steady approach to what he admitted would be a long and arduous event. His Fiesta ran well through day one, but he was a minute down on Andersson. Janne Tuohino (Ford) and Michal Kosciuszko (Skoda) rounded out the top six.
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