Rally Portugal kicked off this evening for the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team with a 3.36-kilometre super special stage at the Lousada rallycross circuit, where Ott Tänak posted the fastest time to take an early lead of the event.
The first competitive stage followed this morning’s shakedown, held over a 4.6-kilometre route. Jari-Matti Latvala was fastest overall, with both Esapekka Lappi and Tänak just one second slower. All three returned to service after their first set of runs, happy with the feeling of their cars and not needing to make any major changes to the setups established at the recent pre-event test. On stage one, Lappi and Latvala were 10th and 13th respectively, but both within four seconds of the lead.
Tom Fowler (Chief Engineer)
“It was a good shakedown for us this morning. We had good pace from the car and no reliability issues, so everything went to plan. All three drivers did their shakedown runs all in one go before returning to service, with just some data checks. Our test before the rally went very well, with the drivers really confident with their setups, and they all reported that they had the same good feeling with the car in the shakedown. Rally Portugal is a slightly different rally to Argentina, but in terms of car setup it’s pretty close, so we’re confident that the good performance that we had in Argentina should carry through to here with just some very small changes. This rally should hopefully also be a little bit easier on the cars. Everybody is feeling confident and ready for the rally ahead.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (Driver car 7)
“At the ceremonial start there were already a lot of people around, but then we came to the first stage and it is like a stadium full of people: it felt like a football match. There is just so much interest in rallying here in Portugal. I lost some time on the final hairpin: we will look at what happened but it doesn’t worry me. I’m feeling very positive at the start of the rally. I have a really good feeling with the car. On shakedown we did three runs in a row with no changes, which confirmed that we have the right setup, and we set the fastest time. I would really like this rally to be a turning point for my season: I really want to have a clean run and show the speed that I know I can do.”
Ott Tänak (Driver car 8)
“This was a nice stage to start the rally with. I tried hard and we managed the quickest time. It always feels special to be here in Portugal, with so many spectators around. Even arriving close to the stage, the sides of the roads are full of people. We had a good feeling on the shakedown this morning, just confirming that everything was working well. I think we are ready and it should definitely be an interesting fight. I think our biggest challenge will come tomorrow, as we will be running third on the road and I expect quite a lot of loose gravel. We will try our best to get a good road position for Saturday, and then hopefully from there onwards we can push harder. The roads here are quite fast and flowing, and we know our car is very competitive when it’s like that, so I’m confident going into the rally.”
Esapekka Lappi (Driver car 9)
“It was an amazing feeling to drive in front of so many spectators on the first stage. Shakedown this morning went pretty well. We didn’t make any changes to the car, and I’m quite happy with the setup. Even though we were in seventh place, we were only one second off the fastest time, so it was probably the best shakedown for me so far. It’s nice for me to be here for the second time in a World Rally Car. As I already have the experience here from last year, I will try to push a bit more and hopefully that will bring better results.”
End of day one (Thursday):
1 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2m34.3s
2 Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) +0.4s
= Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +0.4s
4 Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (Citroen C3 WRC) +1.4s
= Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1.4s
6 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1.5s
7 Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1.6s
= Dani Sordo/Carlos Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1.6s
9 Mads Ostberg/Torstein Eriksen (Citroen C3 WRC) +1.7s
10 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1.8s
13 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +3.9s
(Results as of 20:00 on Thursday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)
There will be eight stages tomorrow as Rally Portugal truly gets underway. The morning’s three stages to the north near the border with Spain will be repeated again in the afternoon after mid-day service. There will then be two runs over a street stage in Porto to round out the day.
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