Volkswagen's Jari-Matti Latvala led the way this afternoon in the shakedown for Rally de Portugal, the fourth round in the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship.
Latvala completed the 4.98 km test in Vale Judeu in 3 minute 53.6 seconds, putting him 0.8 seconds up on Ford privateer, Henning Solberg, and a further 1.1 seconds up on his team-mate, and 2013 World Rally Champion, Sebastien Ogier.
“It's only shakedown but... good feeling and a good time,” Latvala wrote on his official Facebook page, after opting for two runs over the stage, which included muddy, damp and dry sections.
“I am very happy with the handling of the Polo R WRC,” continued the Finn later on. “The route was still a bit damp, but it was good to drive on with soft tyres. If it does not rain from now on, large parts of the stages will probably dry out quickly, particularly on open terrain. However, it could stay damp under the trees. This makes tyre selection difficult. It might be possible to set faster times on soft tyres, but if it is not damp enough they will also wear quickly. The right decision could ultimately be crucial.”
Ogier added: “We had no problems on the shakedown, and the Polo R WRC is in great form. We were on soft tyres. It looks ok for us at the moment, as it has rained. That means there will not be so much loose gravel on the roads when we are the first car onto the route on Friday. That is definitely a small advantage for us. On the other side of the coin, however, we will not be able to follow the line taken by other cars, and you never know where there may be a surprise lurking.”
Dani Sordo meanwhile came in fourth in the third Hyundai i20 WRC, ahead of M-Sport team leader, Mikko Hirvonen and then fellow i20 WRC runners, Juho Hanninen and Thierry Neuville.
Former Formula 1 driver, Robert Kubica took eighth, with Mads Ostberg and Andreas Mikkelsen rounding out the top-ten.
“The shakedown took place on mud, with damp patches and also some dry sections today, so we were faced with a little bit of everything,” Mikkelsen noted. “For us, today was all about finding our rhythm and getting a feel for the conditions. The route got quicker from one run to the next. All in all, we are happy with the time we set on our two runs.”
With rain hampering drivers' during the recce on Tuesday [see Ostberg's tweet below], the schedule was revised this morning to allow them to practice. The event now gets underway on Thursday evening, with the 3.27 km Lisboa SSS, scheduled to start at 18.01 hours local time. The real action then commences on Friday, with three stages on the bill – all to be run twice.
Rally de Portugal - Shakedown results (Top 10):
1. Jari-Matti Latvala
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 3m 53.6s
2. Henning Solberg
Ford Fiesta RS WRC +0.8s
3. Sebastien Ogier
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +0m 01.9s
4. Dani Sordo
Hyundai Motorsport N i20 WRC +0m 02.6s
5. Mikko Hirvonen
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +0m 03.1s
6. Juho Hanninen
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +0m 03.2s
7. Thierry Neuville
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +0m 03.3s
8. Robert Kubica
RK M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +0m 05.0s
9. Mads Ostberg
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +0m 05.1s
10. Andreas Mikkelsen
Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC +0m 05.3s
all times unofficial