SS3-4: Meeke extends Portugal advantage
Citroën driver heads Ogier at Friday midpoint
Kris Meeke stretched his Vodafone Rally de Portugal advantage over Sébastien Ogier to 11.5sec as competitors returned to Matosinhos for mid-leg service on Friday lunchtime.
Having grabbed the lead by winning the morning’s opening speed test, the Briton went fastest in the following Caminha test. He ended the loop with second quickest in Viana do Castelo, despite a big scare early in the stage.
“I had a big impact when I hit a rut near the start. Something felt strange and it wasn’t easy to keep the car in a straight line. I was praying it wasn’t a puncture,” explained Citroën pilot Meeke, whose DS 3 was emitting a strong smell of burning rubber at the finish.
Road opener Ogier lost little time through his start position in the first two stages. Viana do Castelo was a different matter as thick gravel proved costly, but Ogier’s fears of losing 15sec proved unfounded as he yielded 5.8sec to stage winner and Volkswagen Polo R team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala.
Dani Sordo was third overall in his Hyundai i20 after a great morning. The Spaniard was third in the final test and was only 3.1sec behind Ogier.
Despite edging Meeke by 0.2sec in Viana do Castelo, Latvala remained unhappy with his understeering Polo R and planned set-up changes in service. The Finn was tied with Ott Tänak, the Estonian delighted with top four times in SS3 and SS4 in his Ford Fiesta RS.
Hayden Paddon was 22.9sec off the lead in sixth, the Rally Argentina winner battling a suspected differential problem in his Hyundai i20. “It’s not a huge problem but enough to unsettle the balance of the car and affect the driving,” said the Kiwi.
Andreas Mikkelsen was seventh, despite driving over a big rock. Thierry Neuville, Stéphane Lefebvre, who dropped time with a front left puncture in Caminha, and Mads Østberg completed the top 10.
Kevin Abbring retired his i20 after breaking a steering arm in SS3.
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