Citroen's Dani Sordo led the way this morning in the qualifying stage for Rally de Portugal, the fourth round in the 2013 World Rally Championship.
Sordo, who won the Fafe Rally Sprint last weekend, completed the 4.98 kilometre test in 3 minutes 01.6 seconds, which put him 0.7 seconds up on the Volkswagen Polo R WRC of Sebastien Ogier.
The Spaniard will now get first choice of starting position for the opening day on Friday. He is expected to opt to run last of the 13 WRC drivers, in order to get maximum benefit from having the road ahead swept clean.
"A few days after the Fafe Rally Sprint, I still seem to be on form in Portugal. The atmosphere is different now. We have started the rally looking to get a very good result," said Sordo. "More than the time I set this morning, most of all I'm pleased with the feeling I had in the car. I feel confident about tomorrow. It won't be an easy day. There were some muddy sections during recce, but I think that starting well down the running order would be the best option."
“I am very happy with the qualifying result, as I am unfortunately still not one hundred per cent fit," Ogier added. "I felt a little better this morning, and just hope I continue to improve day by day, as the long and difficult special stages are extremely physically wearing – particularly if you are not one hundred per cent fit. Whatever happens, the Rally Portugal will be a big challenge, but we will do our best.”
Jari-Matti Latvala meanwhile was third in the second works VW Polo, with Qatar M-Sport WRT man Mads Ostberg fourth and Mikko Hirvonen fifth.
“We had a good run in qualifying, without any major mistakes. I was possibly a little too cautious at a few points, and that might have cost us a few tenths of a second. We could probably have done better than third, but generally speaking I am happy,” said Latvala.
“The stages at the Rally Portugal appear to be a bit rougher and harder than last year. This is probably because the rain has eroded the route more and brought more stones and boulders onto the surface. However, we are skipping some of the stages this year that were barely driveable in the rain last year. My goal, having failed at the first three rallies, is to finish on the podium.”
Behind, Evgeny Novikov and Thierry Neuville came in sixth and seventh, with Andreas Mikkelsen, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Khalid Al-Qassimi rounding out the top ten.
“It is fantastic to be back in the WRC. It is a long time since my last race in a World Rally Car back in 2008. The Rally Portugal is certainly not the easiest way to start the season. The special stages look challenging. For me, it will be all about gaining as much experience as possible. I am happy with qualifying. I could have been going a few tenths quicker, but I didn't want to risk too much, as the qualifying stage has a few tricky corners,” Mikkelsen remarked.
Drivers will now select their start positions at 13.00 hours local time. The action then starts 'proper' on Friday, with SS1, the 20.32 kilometre Mú 1 test, scheduled to get underway at 09.18 hours local time.
Rallye de Portugal - Qualifying stage:
1. Dani Sordo
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC 3m 01.6s
2. Sebastien Ogier
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +0.7s
3. Jari-Matti Latvala
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +0.8s
4. Mads Ostberg
Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +0.9s
5. Mikko Hirvonen
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +1.3s
6. Evgeny Novikov
Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1.6s
7. Thierry Neuville
Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2.0s
8. Andreas Mikkelsen
Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC +6.0s
9. Nasser Al-Attiyah
Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +6.6s
= Khalid Al-Qassimi
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +6.6s
11. Martin Prokop
Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +7.8s
12. Michal Kosciuszko
Lotos Team WRC MINI John Cooper Works WRC +10.4s
13. Dennis Kuipers
Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +12.2s
all times unofficial