Friday 22 May 2015

Rally - Meeke in Portugal

At the end of Day 1 of Rally de Portugal, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle finished the first leg in second place overall with team mates Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson in seventh position.

This year, the rally has moved 550 kms north of the Algarve to set up base round Porto. Last used in 2001, these stages are therefore totally unfamiliar to all the World Championship drivers, back in a region that loves the sport where huge crowds have lined the roads.

Starting in fifth position, the Northern Irishman produced consistently strong performances in the morning loop to move into second overall. The very slippery road surface changed as the day wore on. Often becoming quicker, the lines were also dirtied by rocks pulled out as more cars came through the stages. In opting to go with soft tyres in the afternoon, he ended the leg in second place, eleven seconds behind the leader, Jari-Matti Latvala.

Second in the Drivers’ Championship, Mads Østberg had to contend with a much tougher starting position. Forced to sweep the loose gravel off the racing line, the Norwegian lost a lot of time on Ponte de Lima (SS2) and Viana do Castelo (SS4). On a less demanding road surface, he managed to set the fastest time on the 18 kilometre-long SS3. On the second loop, Mads confirmed his pace to end the day in seventh place, around twenty seconds adrift of his team-mate.

Tomorrow, Saturday, the longest day of the rally will get underway at 7.30am. 165.40 kilometres of timed stages will be spread across three stages, each run two times.

At the overnight halt, Kris said: “We weren’t really expecting the roads to change so much between the two runs. At the midday service, we had to take a gamble based on the data we had. In hindsight, if we did it all again, I think I would have gone for a slightly different set-up and tyres. We still managed to be pretty quick and consistent. You can see that in the overall standings! Tomorrow, we’ll be tackling more new stages. We’ll need to keep up the same pace.”

Mads Østberg added: “I really enjoyed these stages even though the conditions were difficult. I learned a lot by starting in second position on the road. The roads on tomorrow’s stages should be better for us. We also made good tyre choices which leaves us with options for the rest of the rally.”

Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal), commented: “Kris and Mads both had a very good day. With different difficulties due to their respective starting positions, they made the most of a reliable car in what were really tough conditions, especially on the second loop. Kris managed his race perfectly, even though tyre choice wasn’t easy. Mads did more than hold his own given that he was second on the road. He pretty much matched Sébastien Ogier’s times. The aim is to keep doing the same thing, like in Argentina, and for both DS 3 WRCs to finish as high as possible.”

Leaderboard after Day 1:
1. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 1:07:19.4
2. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (DS 3 WRC) +11.1
3. Andreas Mikkelsen / Ola Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +16.0
4. Ott Tanak / Raigo Molder (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +17.8
5. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC) +21.8
6. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +25.9
7. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (DS 3 WRC) +31.3
8. Hayden Paddon / John Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +40.0
9. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:08.0
10. Robert Kubica / Maciej Szczepaniak (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:29.1

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