WRC'15 Rally Portugal, May 21-24 talk/results spoiler **
Rnd5 WRC Portugal May21-24[/B]
First held in 1967 and one of the founding events in the inaugural 1973 WRC.
Initially a mixed surface rally, it switched to a pure gravel format but lost its place in the calendar after bad weather ruined the 2001 event.
Organisers moved from the north to the Algarve holiday region in the south and it regained its place in 2007.
Named ‘Best Rally in the World’ on five occasions.
What's new for 2015
Everything! These stages have not been used in the WRC since 2001.
The classic Fafe stage – one of the all-time great WRC tests.
Schoolboy Gus Greensmith faced two tests of a very different kind today (Tuesday) as he stepped straight from the classroom into the WRC at Vodafone Rally de Portugal (21 - 24 May).
The 18-year-old spent the morning sitting his economics A-level examination at Bury Grammar School in England, before jetting to Portugal to climb into a Ford Fiesta R2 for a pre-event test.
Greensmith is the youngest of 11 entrants in the Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy which begins in Portugal and supports the WRC’s fifth round. And his educational demands meant he missed today’s opening day of recce.
“The focus is on getting to the end of the rally and completing the event, then we can push more in Poland,” said the British junior champion.
Last season’s runner-up Tom Cave heads the entries after leading every round in 2014 at some point. The 23-year-old Welshman believes the rally’s move to northern Portugal puts added importance on preparation.
“The new roads place even more emphasis on accurate pace notes and that’s an area where I can be confident,” he said.
2015 Key Facts
• All competitors will drive M-Sport’s newly-developed Fiesta R2. Powered by Ford’s 1.0-litre turbocharged EcoBoost engine, the car boasts an improved gearbox, a new braking system and updated electronics and suspension.
• Last year’s rookie champion Max Vatanen has a new co-driver. The Finn will receive pace notes in French from Jacques-Julien Renucci. However, 24-year-old Vatanen has lived in the south of France from a young age so there should be no language issues.
• Norway’s Marius Aasen has also changed co-drivers. He will be partnered by Veronica Engan, who has read notes for Mads Østberg and Henning Solberg.
• Also back from 2014 are Ghislain de Mevius, Nicolas Amiouni and Nil Solans, who won last year’s final round.
• Mats van den Brand takes his place as part of the prize for winning 2014’s Trophy shoot-out.
• Portugal marks Will Hudson’s WRC debut but the USA driver will be guided by experienced co-driver Alex Gelsomino, who also sits alongside Ken Block.
Andreas Mikkelsen was fastest in Thursday morning's shakedown at Vodafone Rally de Portugal on his first competitive outing in Volkswagen Motorsport's 2015 specification Polo R.
The Norwegian headed team-mates Sebastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala in a VW 1-2-3. While his colleagues have driven the car since January's opening round of the season in Monte-Carlo, this is Mikkelsen's first rally in it.
He was quickest through the 4.63km Paredes test by 1.3sec from Ogier, with Latvala a further 0.5sec back in third.
"I can't understand why I didn't get this car earlier!" joked Mikkelsen. "The feeling with it is great. We had a super test and managed to do a lot of kilometres. I was introduced to it last year so I knew what to expect. I really enjoyed this morning."
Behind the Volkswagen trio, Ott Tanak was fourth in the first indication of the pace of the new Ford Fiesta RS. He was 0.3sec behind Latvala and tied with Dani Sordo's Hyundai i20. Robert Kubica completed the top six in another Fiesta RS.
Thursday - SS1: Mikkelsen takes
early lead in Portugal
Andreas Mikkelsen led Vodafone Rally de Portugal after winning Thursday evening's opening super special stage in front of a massive crowd at Lousada circuit.
Volkswagen Motorsport secured a 1-2-3 with the Polo R in a carbon copy of this morning's shakedown stage as the Norwegian outpaced team-mates Sebastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala.
Tens of thousands of fans packed the circuit to see Mikkelsen defeat Elfyn Evans as two cars at-a-time tackled the mixed surface gravel and asphalt test.
"It was great fun, a fantastic way to kick-off the rally," he said. "The crowds were huge and we had a clean run. It was dusty and hard to see the corners in places. It will be a tricky weekend with a lot of new stages, but I'm looking forward to the challenge."
Mikkelsen was 0.5sec faster than Ogier, who beat Mads Ostberg's DS 3. Latvala was a further 0.3sec behind after beating Dani Sordo in a Hyundai i20.
Robert Kubica, returning to the WRC after missing the previous round in Argentina, was fourth with Thierry Neuville and Kris Meeke completing the top six.
The rally restarts from Matosinhos, near Porto, tomorrow morning for the first of three days of action. Drivers face two identical loops of three gravel stages covering 128.62km close to the Spanish border.
Dani Sordo won Friday's opening stage at Vodafone Rally de Portugal to move into a slender lead at this fifth round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
The Spaniard delighted his legions of fans who had crossed the border to cheer him on by topping the timesheets by 1.3sec in his Hyundai i20. It promoted him above overnight leader Andreas Mikkelsen's Volkswagen Polo R by 0.1sec.
However, Sordo was not entirely happy, reporting a noise from the i20's engine and feeling it was down on power.
Ott Tanak was second in the stage in the new Ford Fiesta RS, 1.5sec ahead of Mikkelsen, who continued to enthuse about the 2015-specification Polo R on his first outing in it.
"I was working on my driving style all the way through," he said. "No risks, just driving and feeling comfortable. It was really, really good. I love it."
Tanak was one of several drivers to report loose rocks being unearthed from the soft, sandy surface and championship leader Sebastien Ogier punctured the rear right tyre on his Polo R midway through and dropped 12sec.
Kris Meeke and Jari-Matti Latvala were fourth and fifth in Citro?n’s DS 3 and a Polo R respectively, to hold the same positions overall ahead of Ogier in sixth.
Thierry Neuville lost more than 30sec but the Belgian said there were no specific issues. "Everything is good, but I had a very bad stage, I couldn't find the rhythm. There were lots of stones and I wanted to be careful with the tyres," he said.
Elfyn Evans stopped 3km before the finish with an electrical problem on his new Fiesta RS while Martin Prokop had no rear brakes on his similar car.
Organisers and emergency services had earlier fought an 18-hour battle to bring forest fires under control near the stage. Almost 250 people and 60 vehicles were involved.
Jari-Matti Latvala became the third leader in four stages at Vodafone Rally de Portugal after a blistering performance in the final test of Friday morning's loop.
On roads covered in thick loose gravel, the Finn took advantage of his low start position to win the Viana do Castelo test by 5.6sec to vault from third to first in his Volkswagen Polo R.
"That was a big push," he admitted. "There was a lot of loose gravel and a lot of cleaning by the cars ahead. Sometimes when you have an opportunity you have to use it. I haven't had a time like that for a long time, so it's nice to use it now."
Latvala led Kris Meeke by 6.1sec, the Briton third in both Viana do Castelo and the previous Caminha test in Citroen's DS 3. Andreas Mikkelsen, who led overnight and again after Caminha, was 9.2sec off the lead in third in his Polo R.
Dani Sordo headed the field after SS2 but the Spaniard was fifth in each of the next two tests to hold fourth in his Hyundai i20, 12.3sec off the lead.
Ott Tanak was fifth in the new Ford Fiesta RS, nine seconds clear of Mads Ostberg, who was fastest in Caminha but fell foul of the gravel in the following test.
Worst hit was first on the road Sebastien Ogier, who described it as 'one of the worst stages I've driven for sweeping'. The Frenchman was seventh, 25.7sec off the lead as competitors returned to Matsosinhos for service.
Forest fires forced the cancellation of Friday afternoon's second pass through the Ponte de Lima stage at Vodafone Rally de Portugal.
Emergency services battled overnight blazes to allow the 27.53km test to start as scheduled this morning, but it was stopped after 33 cars as the hillsides continued to burn.
Organisers had no option but to scrub the second run and cars were held in Matosinhos following the mid-leg service before heading directly to the Caminha test, which will start on schedule at 16.35 (CEST).
Almost 250 people and 60 vehicles were involved in an 18-hour battle to bring the fires under control after they started yesterday afternoon.
SS6: Ogier opens account in Portugal
Sebastien Ogier became the fifth different winner in five completed stages at Vodafone Rally de Portugal when he topped the timesheets in Friday's second pass through the Caminha test.
First on the road Ogier benefited from roads cleaned of loose gravel during the initial run, but the morning’s sandy surface was replaced by rocks and ruts and several drivers regretted not raising their car’s ride height.
Ogier was fastest by 2.6sec in his Volkswagen Polo R from team-mate and leader Jari-Matti Latvala, with Ott Tanak a tenth of a second further back in a Ford Fiesta RS.
Ogier, who climbed to sixth ahead of Mads Ostberg, jumped out of his car at the stage finish to check the tyre wear while Tanak, like many, was surprised just how demanding the roads were.
"It was really rough compared to the earlier pass. It was hard on the tyres and we have to keep nursing the car," said the Estonian.
Second for Latvala enabled him to extend his lead to 7.4sec over fourth fastest Kris Meeke, who admitted his DS 3 was bouncing so much on the rough tracks that he struggled to see the road.
Jari-Matti Latvala put a smile back on his face after a dismal run of three consecutive pointless rounds by leading Vodafone Rally de Portugal after Friday's opening leg.
He won the same stage this morning and this afternoon in his Volkswagen Polo R to open a 11.1sec advantage over Kris Meeke in Citroen's DS 3. Andreas Mikkelsen was a further 4.9sec behind in another Polo R.
"It's coming good," said the Finn. "After a steady start we increased the pace stage by stage and attacked more. That final stage suited me well. I've had hard times recently so it would be great to have a good event, but tomorrow will be tough."
Latvala's low start position, the result of his disappointing season, helped him on soft, sandy roads this morning as the early starters swept away loose gravel to leave a cleaner road for those behind.
The stages were less slippery but rougher this afternoon, rocks and deep ruts prompting many drivers to raise the height of their cars to protect them from damage.
Meeke was the closest challenger for the lead for much of the day, but top spot changed hands on several occasions as Dani Sordo and Mikkelsen each led before Latvala took control.
Ott Tanak enjoyed a strong debut in the new Ford Fiesta RS to hold fourth, 1.8sec behind Mikkelsen. Sordo's Hyundai i20 was fifth and road opener Sebastien Ogier, who suffered most from sweeping the gravel, completed the top six in his Polo R.
Jari-Matti Latvala retained his Vodafone Rally de Portugal lead through Saturday’s opening two stages, but Volkswagen team-mate Sebastien Ogier was the man on the move as he climbed to fourth.
Latvala overshot a junction in the opening Baiao in his Polo R but recovered to set second fastest time in the slippery Marao.
"I was too fast into a left corner and had to use the handbrake to turn around," he said. "The next one was very, very tricky. I thought I was driving slowly because it was so slippery but it seems everyone felt like that."
Andreas Mikkelsen won the opener to relegate Citroen’s Kris Meeke from second, but the Briton retaliated to win Marao and regained position by 0.2sec, despite a lucky escape.
"I had a big moment," explained the DS 3 driver. "I had a wrong pace note for a corner. I expected it to be fifth gear, but it was fourth. We were quite lucky but that's what happens on a new rally with new notes."
Second and third fastest times promoted Ogier from sixth to fourth and the Frenchman is 21.8sec off Latvala's lead.
Thierry Neuville rolled his Hyundai i20 less than 3km into Baiao. The Belgian's car came to rest in the road in a narrow section and team-mate Dani Sordo lost 10sec nudging it out of the way.
Elfyn Evans broke the front right suspension on his Ford Fiesta RS after hitting a rock in the same stage. The car briefly caught fire but the Welshman and co-driver Dan Barritt quickly doused the flames using fire extinguishers and gravel.
A second consecutive victory in Saturday morning’s final stage moved Kris Meeke to within striking distance of leader Jari-Matti Latvala at Vodafone Rally de Portugal.
The Northern Irishman won the test by 2.4sec from Sebastien Ogier. More importantly for Citroen's DS 3 driver, he was 5.1sec faster than Latvala to close to within 6.1sec of the Volkswagen Polo R driver.
Meeke's mix of three soft and two hard compound Michelin tyres worked well through the three stage loop, although he expected Latvala's package to work better in this test.
However, all was not well with the Finn. "The fight is good and I’m happy with my tyre choice, but I hit a rock really hard about 7km from the end. I had a feeling that the tyre was going flat but it was OK. I hesitated after that and lost my rhythm," he said.
Third-placed Andreas Mikkelsen conceded 6.6sec to team-mate Sebastien Ogier, who was second fastest, and the Norwegian's advantage over the championship leader was down to 3.8sec.
"It wasn’t a perfect tyre strategy for the morning but nobody had that," said Ogier. "I started the day with three cars sweeping the road ahead of me in the running order, but now there's only one. I had a chance of gaining time even with two cars ahead, but with one it's difficult."
Sebastien Ogier won the first two of Saturday afternoon’s stages at Vodafone Rally de Portugal to maintain his charge up the leaderboard.
The Frenchman, sixth this morning, climbed to third in his Volkswagen Polo R and increased the pressure on leader Jari-Matti Latvala and second-placed Kris Meeke. He narrowed the gap to Meeke to 3.7sec and trails team-mate Latvala by 14.4sec.
"Not bad at all," said Ogier at the end of Marao. "There was a rock in the middle of the road, on the line. I couldn't avoid it but luckily this time I didn't get a puncture."
Latvala was second in both stages but the Finn was relaxed at conceding almost five seconds.
"I had four hard tyres on the car and was worried we would lose more time to Ogier, who has two soft compounds on his. I'm happy we didn't lose more and our tyres should be good for today's final stage," he explained.
Meeke, too, was unflustered after posting fourth and third fastest in the two tests. "Yep, Seb is on a big push now but I'm just driving my own rally. Wherever that gets me at the end. I'll be happy," said the Citroen pilot.
Andreas Mikkelsen ceded third to Ogier, the Norwegian admitting he lost time as he drove around rocks in the road as the sandy surface cut up.
Hayden Paddon continued his good form by relegating both Hyundai team-mate Dani Sordo and Mads Ostberg in Marao to climb to sixth. However, the Kiwi was having difficulty in encouraging his i20 to turn into corners.
Having resolved morning differential problems in his DS 3, Ostberg dropped time with no boost from his engine, a broken sensor to blame.
SS13: Latvala repels Ogier to retain Portugal lead
Jari-Matti Latvala clung onto the lead of Vodafone Rally de Portugal on Saturday as a determined charge from team-mate Sebastien Ogier set up a thrilling final day.
Despite enduring the worst road conditions of the frontrunners, Ogier roared up the leaderboard from sixth to second. He won all three afternoon speed tests to reduce yesterday's 25.9sec deficit to his Volkswagen Polo R team-mate to 9.5sec.
Tyre choice and management was a crucial factor over the six mountain stages in northern Portugal. Ahead of the last test, Latvala was confident his hard compound Michelins would give him an advantage over Ogier's three hard and one soft tyres.
But the Finn, who overshot a junction in the opening stage, conceded almost five seconds to give Ogier a chance of victory through tomorrow's final three tests.
"The tyres started to fade near the end. Maybe I attacked too much in the asphalt section. I'm a bit disappointed but at least we're still ahead. Ogier is coming very strongly. In these situations he is fired up. This is like a fuel for him," said Latvala.
Ogier swept gravel from the road this morning and admitted he gambled with tyres this afternoon. "We took some risk with tyre choice. It wasn't so bad but it was on the limit. I'll keep pushing flat out and let's see where we are tomorrow," he said.
Kris Meeke won two stages this morning to close to within 6.1sec of the lead in Citroen's DS 3. But the Northern Irishman slipped back to finish 10.5sec behind Ogier and 1.1sec ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen in fourth.
Mikkelsen won the opening stage to briefly hold second but the Norwegian, who spun his Polo R across the finish of the final test, ended 21.1sec off the lead.
Ott Tanak fell away from the podium battle but was untroubled in fifth in his Ford Fiesta RS, ahead of an intriguing three-car fight for sixth.
Sebastien Ogier won Sunday's opening stage at Vodafone Rally de Portugal to claw back more vital seconds in his attempt to dethrone leader Jari-Matti Latvala.
The Frenchman won the first pass through the iconic Fafe stage by 1.7sec from his Volkswagen Polo R team-mate to reduce the gap to just 7.8sec with two tests and 43.50km of action remaining before this afternoon's finish.
"It was a clean stage. I kept to my plan and didn’t take extra risks. It's the same driving I’ve done since the beginning of the rally. Let's see on the next one…" said the championship leader.
Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia wore each other’s helmets. "That was a mistake. It seemed to work OK though!" laughed Ogier.
Latvala was unflustered. "He did this stage last year at the rallysprint. I’ve done it only once before in 2012 so I knew I would lose this one. No panic," he said.
Andreas Mikkelsen was third and regained third overall in his Polo R by outpacing Kris Meeke by 1.5sec. The Norwegian headed the Citrotn pilot by 0.4sec overall.
"I wasn’t good enough so we'll keep trying. We tried to do everything here but I couldn’t make the time," explained Meeke.
Khalid Al Qassimi escaped a two-wheel moment early in the stage after cutting a corner.
Jari-Matti Latvala credited co-driver Miikka Anttila for providing the confidence boost that spurred him to outpace Sebastien Ogier through the penultimate speed test and move within touching distance of Vodafone Rally de Portugal victory.
The Finn was 2.6sec faster than his Volkswagen Polo R team-mate in the 32.35km Vieira do Minho test. He heads into the final live TV Power Stage at the iconic Fafe with a 10.4sec advantage.
Ogier clawed back 1.7sec in the previous stage and Latvala thanked Anttila for his encouragement.
"We talked before the stage because I knew we couldn't keep the car in the ruts in the previous one. Miikka said to me 'concentrate, concentrate'. Then 5km into the stage he said 'you're going great, fantastic', and that gave me confidence that I will do it," he said.
Ogier admitted he hadn't gambled everything. "It was a good stage, clean but not perfect, but I wasn't in the position to take risks," he said.
Kris Meeke's hopes of regaining third from Andreas Mikkelsen were dashed when a rear anti-roll bar broke on his DS 3 and the Northern Irishman dropped more than 16sec to the Norwegian.
"It's difficult to drive with that when the road is corner to corner, but we have to stay positive and take the speed we've had here into the rest of the season," said Meeke.
Hyundai’s Hayden Paddon slipped into eighth behind Mads Ostberg in the previous stage and the Kiwi admitted his chances of regaining it were slim. "Right from the word go the balance of the car was off because we have one worn tyre," he said.
Jari-Matti Latvala fought off team-mate Sebastien Ogier to secure his first victory of the season at Vodafone Rally de Portugal on Sunday.
He won the four-day gravel event, round five of the FIA World Rally Championship, by 8.2sec in a Volkswagen Polo R. Championship leader Ogier settled for second after a determined charge to dethrone the Finn from top spot.
Andreas Mikkelsen took third to claim a 1-2-3 for the German squad, finishing 28.6sec behind Ogier.
Ogier won the final live TV Power Stage to claim three bonus points. Latvala took two and Mikkelsen claimed the remaining point.
Latvala ends barren
run with Portugal win
Jari-Matti Latvala ended a bleak sequence of results by holding off team-mate Sebastien Ogier to win Vodafone Rally de Portugal on Sunday.
After failing to score in the previous three rounds, Latvala finished 8.2sec ahead of the FIA World Rally Championship leader in the four-day gravel event to claim his first victory since October last year.
Andreas Mikkelsen completed the podium a further 20.4sec behind to provide a clean sweep of the top three for Volkswagen Motorsport with its Polo R car.
"After the last three rallies some people were doubting if I would come back," said Latvala. "It was one of the worst situations in my rally career so to come and win here is unique. I really appreciate this victory feeling."
It was the 13th career win for the 30-year-old Finn, who benefited from a low start position and cleaner road conditions to take the lead on Friday afternoon and was never headed.
Italy’s WRC counter was formerly a mixed surface event based in Sanremo, and known as the Rally of the Flowers when it was first held in 1928.
It formed part of the WRC from the championship’s beginning in 1973.
Michele Mouton became the first and only woman to win a WRC round when she triumphed in 1981.
The rally moved to the Mediterranean island of Sardinia in 2004.
What’s new for 2015
An overnight halt on Thursday in Cagliari.
Saturday’s leg is the longest in the WRC since 2012.
Less than a third of the stage distance is the same as 2014.