Legs one and two of SATA Rallye Açores, the fourth round of the FIA European Rally Championship, have been merged together after organisers announced a change to the event itinerary.
Heavy overnight rain has resulted in significant damage to the roads on stages one and two with the end result that SS1 - Coroa da Mata 1 - has been cancelled and SS2 - São Brás/Vila Franca 1 - shortened from 16.38 kilometres to 6.14 kilometres.
With the revised stage length of leg one now less than 10 per cent of the total competitive distance, event stewards have confirmed that legs one and two will be merged, which means that the start order selected by the priority drivers for Thursday's stages will apply to Friday's route as well.
Jean-Michel Raoux will run first on the road through Leg One in his Peugeot 207 following qualifying for the event, which was headed by former F1 racer Robert Kubica.
The Pole eventually elected to run tenth on the road, behind the likes of Craig Breen and Jan Kopecky having initially admitted he was undecided over which way to go.
“I would prefer to be further back because now I don't know which position is the best to choose,” he said having gone almost four seconds quicker than anyone else through the qualifying stage. “I have no experience and with so much surface changes on the stages it's very difficult to know what is the best.
“Without being here before you don't know how the roads are developing and whether the grip level is damp or wet or getting worse. Some places will get better, some places will get worse.”
The action will get underway without Bryan Bouffier however, after he was forced to withdraw following a blown engine in pre-event testing.
“I regret to announce that I will not be at the start of the rally,” he said. “The engine broke during testing and a spare was not available.”
Bouffier had been amongst the pre-event favourites for success in his Peugeot 207 S2000.