SS5: Latvala in trouble as weather turns
Rain, mud and fog make for tough going in Portugal
Petter Solberg has shot into the lead of Vodafone Rally de Portugal after Ford team-mate and erstwhile pacesetter Jari-Matti Latvala went off the road barely a handful of kilometres from the stage finish.
Heavy rain, mud and patches of fog made for treacherous driving conditions and several drivers hit trouble, most notably Latvala who ended up stuck in a ditch in his Fiesta RS WRC.
Solberg, who was more than one minute slower than stage winner Dani Sordo but now leads Mikko Hirvonen by 25.1s in the overall classification, said: “I went off in a right-hand corner and lost 10 seconds. It was so muddy, so slippery, just unbelievable. After that I backed off because it was too risky from championship point of view.”
Citroen driver Hirvonen said: “It’s not a problem when it’s slippery but it’s where the grip is inconsistent that’s the problem. There were so many cars all over the place. I was just a bit too cautious.”
Sordo, meanwhile, said running first on the road in his Prodrive-run MINI John Cooper Works WRC had handed him a clear advantage.
“It was really, really difficult, really slippery and will get worse for the cars coming behind so to be first on the road was better,” said the Spaniard. “There was some fog in the stage in the really fast part at the top. The car was okay but the conditions call for soft tyres and we don’t have a lot for the rally.”
Armindo Araujo suffered a spin approximately five kilometres into the stage in his WRC Team MINI Portugal John Cooper Works WRC.
With the faulty ignition coil problem that slowed him on Thursday solved, Martin Prokop’s biggest concern came when he went off the road on two occasions. “It was really crazy - the stage was incredible,” he said. “I had two big moments at the beginning and we were quite a lot out of the road so we are lucky we are here.”
Other drivers in trouble on the stage include Craig Breen, Thierry Neuville, Sebastien Ogier, Hayden Paddon and Ott Tanak, who was fourth overall prior to the stage start but is understood to have retired.
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