Rally Portugal, friday: Tänak tops Toyota trio
Latvala and Meeke fill podium places
SS1: Sordo grabs early lead
Dani Sordo snatched the early lead of Vodafone Rally de Portugal on Friday morning after winning a hot and dusty opening speed test in Lousã.
The Spaniard benefited from cleaner road conditions further down the start order in his Hyundai i20 to complete the 12.35km test 4.2sec clear of Ott Tänak.
“It was difficult but I was happy with my driving and I enjoyed the car. I was scared about the dust but in the end it wasn’t so bad,” he explained.
Rally organisers decided on four-minute gaps between the leading cars to compensate for the hanging dust amid Lousã’s thick canopy of forest.
Tänak’s time from second in the start order was remarkable. Aside from road opener Sébastien Ogier, the Estonian had the worst of the slippery gravel in his Toyota Yaris, but looked set for fastest time until he was eclipsed by Sordo.
“Friday is so crucial for the rest of the weekend,” he said. “We have dust from Ogier and a loose surface. It will be a big challenge because the cleaning is massive today.”
Teemu Suninen completed the top three in his Fiesta, only 0.2sec behind Tänak. Jari-Matti Latvala was next up in his Yaris, the Finn recognising he was assisted by his start position.
“The road is cleaning and this is helping. The dust is quite bad, I didn’t expect it to be that bad, so I was braking early. It will get better now,” he said.
Latvala finished four-tenths behind his fellow countryman and 1.1sec up on Elfyn Evans. The Welshman finished with a warning light showing on the dashboard of his Fiesta but his M-Sport Ford team confirmed there were no concerns for the Welshman.
Ogier and Thierry Neuville, the first two cars in the running order, suffered most from the cleaning roads. Neuville was ninth in his i20, 14.6sec off team-mate Sordo’s pace, with Ogier a further 0.9sec behind in 10th.
SS2-3: Tänak tops Toyota 1-2-3
Ott Tänak headed a Toyota Gazoo Racing 1-2-3 at Vodafone Rally de Portugal on Friday morning after a disastrous opening for Hyundai Motorsport team-mates Dani Sordo and Sébastien Loeb.
Despite starting second in the running order and cleaning the slippery gravel roads for those behind, Tänak was stunning in his Toyota Yaris.
He won both the Góis and Arganil speed tests after finishing second in the opening Lousã to reach the mid-leg tyre zone with a 6.9sec lead over Jari-Matti Latvala. Britain’s Kris Meeke was a further 7.1sec adrift to complete Toyota’s clean sweep.
“We had a very good first loop. It’s been quite tough with dust. I must say the grip has been quite good and the car is performing well. The second loop can be more demanding and rough so we need to remain focused and make the right tyre choice,” said the Estonian.
The three stages, being driven for the first time since 2001, were hot and dusty and officials created four-minute gaps between competitors to avoid visibility issues.
Sordo’s opening stage lead was slashed by Tänak in Góis but it became irrelevant when the Spaniard hit trouble in Arganil. His Hyundai i20 stopped on several occasions, crawling to the finish after losing more than 18 minutes. Team-mate Sébastien Loeb had similar problems and conceded almost 16 minutes.
Team principal Andrea Adamo explained: “It seems there is a problem in the fuel system. We don’t think it is an evaporation issue. I think we know what it is.”
Meeke was a frustrated man at the end of Góis after intercom problems meant co-driver Seb Marshall had to use hand signals to explain their pace notes.
M-Sport Ford duo Teemu Suninen and Elfyn Evans were fourth and fifth in Fiestas. Suninen trailed Meeke by 3.0sec with Evans a further 4.7sec back. Road opener Sébastien Ogier ensured the worst of the cleaning but limited the damage to hold sixth in a Citroën C3.
Thierry Neuville was seventh in the only i20 to escape problems, although the Belgian lost a handful of seconds after stalling in a Góis junction.
World Rally Car debutant Gus Greensmith and Esapekka Lappi were eighth and ninth, Lappi losing a minute with a front left puncture in Arganil. WRC 2 Pro leader Kalle Rovanperä completed the top 10 in Skoda’s new Fabia R5.
After SS7: Tänak tops Toyota trio
Ott Tänak led a clean sweep of the podium positions for Toyota Gazoo Racing after Friday’s tough opening leg of Vodafone Rally de Portugal.
He was one of the few drivers to avoid trouble in hot and dusty conditions to build a 17.3sec advantage in a Yaris World Rally Car over Jari-Matti Latvala. Kris Meeke completed Toyota’s treble a further 5.5sec back.
This seventh round of the FIA World Rally Championship returned to famous roads near Coimbra for the first time since 2001. Hanging dust prompted organisers to extend start intervals to four minutes to avoid visibility problems.
Second in the start order threatened to hamper Tänak on narrow, twisty roads as he swept away loose gravel to leave cleaner roads for those behind, but he made light of the issue.
He was second initially before gaining a lead he did not relinquish. Two fastest times placed him 6.9sec clear at the midpoint, and he doubled that this afternoon.
“We said before the rally this was a critical day to survive in this event and ensure a better start position for tomorrow. We managed it and now we need to do the rest of the job,” said the Estonian.
Latvala remained hot on his heels until he stalled at a penultimate stage hairpin. The Finn stayed ahead of Meeke, who survived a broken intercom this morning, which required co-driver Seb Marshall to use hand signals to explain their pace notes.
Meeke briefly lost his grip on third to Teemu Suninen, but the Finn fell to sixth when brake failure forced him to zig-zag his Ford Fiesta through the penultimate stage to slow down.
Title rivals Thierry Neuville, driving a Hyundai i20, and Sébastien Ogier, in a Citroën C3, filled the next two places, blanketed by 1.6sec. Both lost time through cleaning, but profited from others’ troubles to climb the order. Neuville dropped 10sec with a stall.
Behind Suninen, M-Sport Ford team-mate Gus Greensmith was seventh on his World Rally Car debut, despite twice stalling his engine.
Esapekka Lappi held eighth. The Finn lost a minute with a front left puncture and further time when delayed behind a troubled Elfyn Evans – time that was later credited to him. WRC 2 leader Ole Christian Veiby and WRC 2 Pro leader Jan Kopecký completed the leaderboard.
Evans dropped four minutes when his Fiesta stopped with an electrical problem in the throttle while, Neuville apart, the day was a disaster for Hyundai.
Dani Sordo led for the first two stages but both he and team-mate Sébastien Loeb spluttered through the third with fuel pressure problems in their i20s. Sordo dropped nearly 19min and Loeb yielded almost 16min.
Saturday’s toughest leg contains more than half the rally’s competitive distance. Crews face a double run over three tests, the opening two through the demanding Cabreira Mountains. They add up to 160.70km.
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