Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia ran first on the road today, but were fairly content to conclude the opening Leg within touching distance of the leaders. Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula finished the day ninth overall in their Polo R WRC but for team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila the opening day came to a premature end. Running second at the time, and within touching distance of the leaders, the duo hit a hole and rolled their car on the ‘Silves’ stage. Driver and co-driver were unhurt.
Afterwards, Ogier commented: “The conditions were not easy – particularly in the morning. The level of grip on offer changed constantly. At times it would be extremely muddy and slippery, then in places there was good grip. We took a cautious approach: as first out you cannot follow the tracks of the cars in front. The special stages had dried out considerably by the second run. However, hard tyres were still not the ideal choice. Generally speaking, today was an exciting day for the fans, as it has been a long time since we have had so many drivers so tightly bunched.”
Andreas Mikkelsen added: “I have had better days of rallying since joining Volkswagen. We decided before the rally to write new pace notes. Unfortunately, however, it rained so heavily during the ‘Recce’ that we could hardly see anything, which is why the pace notes are not as detailed as we would like. The unpredictable road conditions, together with the fact that I did not have 100 per cent confidence in the pace notes, made me very cautious.”
Jari-Matti Latvala, explained: “It is obviously a real shame that I was unable to convert our good performance here into a top result. Because it had rained an awful lot over the past few days, the road conditions were difficult to judge – we opted for a cross-over of hard and soft tyres. I had more understeer than expected in a left-hander and had to take a wide line. When I then got back on track, I hit a deep hole on the right-hand side, which threw the car into the air. We were on two wheels for a moment, before hitting a bank and rolling.”