Latvala/Anttila lead the Rally Portugal after the first third of the distance. Third place for Mikkelsen/FlÃ¸ene on debut in second generation Polo R WRC
Ogier/Ingrassia in sixth are also in reach of a podium finish. Seven drivers within 30 seconds of each other â€“ a thrilling battle between all four manufacturers in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) has developed in Portugal. At the front: Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) in the Polo R WRC. After 104.45 of a total of 324.18 kilometres of special stages, they lead the Rally Portugal with an advantage of 11.1-seconds over Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (GB/IRL, CitroÃ«n). Just a further 4.9 seconds behind that are their Volkswagen team-mates Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola FlÃ¸ene (N/N), in third place on their debut in the second generation Polo R WRC. Double world champions SÃ©bastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), the third Volkswagen duo, are also in reach of the podium â€“ in sixth place with a deficit of 25.9 seconds to Latvala/Anttila.
Friday at the Rally Portugal was characterised by slippery gravel tracks and plenty of loose sand â€“ including clouds of dust. With each World Rally Car that took to the stages, the chances of best times increased. Since they lead the table in the world championship, Ogier/Ingrassia had the honour of taking to the stages first, Mikkelsen/FlÃ¸ene were third to take to the track and Latvala/Anttila were ninth.
Saturday, with 165.08 kilometres of special stages, sees the longest day of the Rally Portugal, which is being held in the north of the country for the first time since 2001. The tyre selection will play a crucial role. With the quantity of soft and hard Michelin competition tyres available, the trick is to economise cleverly. The Volkswagen drivers opted for soft tyres on Friday morning, and a combination of soft and hard tyres in the afternoon.
SÃ©bastien Ogier “Julien and I are happy with our performance. We gave it our all, but unfortunately we were a bit unlucky with a puncture in the morning right on the first stage. That cost us a few seconds and ruined my tyre strategy. After that I couldn’t drive with four soft tyres on the following stages as planned. Then in the afternoon our times were really strong when you look at my starting position. We hardly lost any time to Jari-Matti Latvala. Despite that it will be difficult to fight for the win here. But I’m not giving up and I’m counting on the support of the superb fans on Saturday and Sunday. That will give Julien and I that extra boost.”
Jari-Matti Latvala “Overall it was a very good day for us at the Rally Portugal. I was a bit slower on the opening stages, but found a better rhythm as the stages went on and went on the attack more and more. On the third stage of the day I seized the lead and kept on extending it. The conditions weren’t easy, it was very sandy and there were lots of stones on the track. No doubt the starting position helped us today. Naturally we want to see more of the same tomorrow and the next day.”
Andreas Mikkelsen “I’m very happy with how the Rally Portugal has gone so far. Today we drove at the speed at which we feel most comfortable. And I really feel at home in the new Polo R WRC. In every situation the car really reacts how I would expect it to, and in a way that suits my driving style. We were fast without taking any major risks. The afternoon stages were a little bit more turbulent than we expected. That’s why we didn’t have the right ground clearance and had lowered the Polo a little bit too much. We made the best of it. And of the early starting position. Anything is possible and I’m already looking forward to Saturday’s rally action. With 165 kilometres of special stages, it will be a long hard day. But after today I am convinced that we are perfectly prepared for it.”
Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director “Seven drivers fighting for the podium â€“ you can’t ask for more excitement from a WRC rally. All three Volkswagen drivers did a great job today and got the best result the conditions allowed. SÃ©bastien Ogier was a bit unlucky with the tyre damage, but fought back spectacularly in the afternoon. Andreas Mikkelsen has a strong pace on his debut in the new Polo R WRC and is also in with a chance of finishing on the podium, and maybe even winning the rally. However, it is Jari-Matti Latvala who has given himself the best position for the coming days, after making ideal use of his late starting position. We are extremely happy with the current state of play and are looking forward to the coming days. The different tyre selections made by the top teams is very interesting. The final result on Sunday will show who made the best decision today in terms of the win. It’s exciting.”