Sebastien Ogier relegated Mikko Hirvonen to second place in the second stage and ended the morning with a slender 2.4 sec advantage, then reeled off three straight wins this afternoon after opting for soft tyres on the drying abrasive roads.
“That was really a very good day for us,” said Sebastien, “The Polo was perfect again! A few sections of the route were still damp and slippery, but we were spot on with our tyre selection this time. However, I still tried not to drive too aggressively, in order to save the tyres as much as possible. This rally represents a good opportunity for Julien and me to extend our lead in the World Championship, so we are not taking too many risks or going flat-out at any cost. I obviously want to win here in Portugal for the fourth time, but Mikko Hirvonen is very quick out there. The lead might look comfortable, but the same applies every time: to win it, you must first complete the rally.”
Hirvonen used the same soft compound but his rubber was almost worn to the canvas. “I started to get scared we would get a puncture. I would have liked to carry the fight all the way through but we weren’t able to do it,” he said. "It was an OK morning. We were ready to take some time back through the stage 10, but unfortunately Ott [Tänak] had an issue and blocked the road. It's a shame, but there's still a long way to go and we're certainly not going to give up on chasing him (Ogier) down.”
Mads Østberg lies third in a Citroen DS3, 48.6sec behind Hirvonen. Ott Tänak lost out on a podium finish place when he rolled his Fiesta RS this morning.
Dani Sordo is fourth in a Hyundai i20 with Henning Solberg and Andreas Mikkelsen completing the top six, despite power steering issues for Mikkelsen this afternoon.
Martin Prokop is seventh ahead of Juho Hänninen, who dropped time with two punctures and a broken driveshaft.
Thierry Neuville was a comfortable fifth until he hit the rear of his i20 in the penultimate stage and broke a suspension link. He nursed the car through the final test but dropped more than five minutes and lies ninth.
WRC 2 leader Nasser Al-Attiyah completes the leaderboard in tenth.
Robert Kubica went off the road this morning and burned out the clutch of his Fiesta RS trying to regain the road. He won’t return tomorrow. Kris Meeke did not restart this morning after his DS3’s roll cage was damaged in yesterday’s crash.
Leaderboard after 13 (of 16) stages:
1., S. OGIER , M, 3:03:39.8, ,
2., M. HIRVONEN , M, 3:04:17.9, +38.1, +38.1
3., M. OSTBERG , M, 3:05:06.5, +48.6, +1:26.7
4., D. SORDO , T, 3:05:26.5, +20.0, +1:46.7
5., H. SOLBERG , , 3:08:09.7, +2:43.2, +4:29.9
6., A. MIKKELSEN , T, 3:08:24.6, +14.9, +4:44.8
7., M. PROKOP , T, 3:11:01.3, +2:36.7, +7:21.5
8., J. HÄNNINEN , M, 3:11:10.4, +9.1, +7:30.6
9., T. NEUVILLE , M, 3:11:11.2, +0.8, +7:31.4
10., N. AL-ATTIYAH , WRC2, 3:12:54.0, +1:42.8, +9:14.2
20., M. McCORMACK , WRC2, 3:20:44.1, +34.7, +17:04.3
27., E. EVANS, M, 3:25:41.4, +1:52.5, +22:01.6
42., A. FISHER, WRC3, 3:37:37.5, +16.9, +33:57.7
46., T. CAVE, 3:39:51.1, +18.4, +36:11.3