4 April 2014
Rally de Portugal: Ogier retains lead after SS4
Sebastien Ogier stays top of the WRC leaderboard in Portugal, although it is a dramatic morning with Elfyn Evans and Robert Kubica both going out in SS4 and Dani Sordo winning the first two stages for Hyundai...
Volkswagen's Sebastien Ogier continues to lead Rally de Portugal following the muddy morning loop, although he is only 0.4 seconds up on team-mate, Jari-Matti Latvala.
Ogier lost out slightly running first in the order, but still did enough to set the fourth quickest time in Silves 1, the first test of the leg. He was then fourth again in Ourique and slipped down from P1 overall to P3, behind Dani Sordo and Ott Tanak. However, with Sordo and Tanak both struggling in SS4 and Ogier second fastest, the Frenchman regained the initiative and he now heads into the 30 minute mid-day halt in the Algarve Stadium back at the head of the pack.
“Not too bad, we didn't lose too much time,” Ogier said. “The guys behind are going quite fast. We're going to do the best possible.”
“It is not easy,” he added. “The grip is changing – it is muddy in some places and others it is dry. You have to be very careful. I am not so happy with the car [either] – we took six tyres. I'm not sure it was the right choice but [it was] the team's choice. We are quite heavy. Maybe we can improve the set-up [for this afternoon].”
Latvala meanwhile was only sixth in SS2 and SS3, but the quickest time in SS4 - 7.1 seconds up on Ogier - vaulted him up the order and into second: “It [SS4] was a good stage,” Latvala stated. “There was more grip and when there is more grip I can drive. I was happy with that. My feeling has not been the best and I have had to push myself to drive.”
Mikko Hirvonen is next up for the M-Sport WRT and he was happy with his morning's work – and to have been third in all three tests: "It was really slippery and tricky for us out there, but I have a really good feeling with the car and the pace has been good. The more time I have behind the wheel, the better it's getting. I don't have to think so much about the driving any more, it just works," Hirvonen noted.
"The most difficult thing from this morning was that although the surface looks similar from one corner to the next, the grip level is changing all the time. It's really tricky to find a consistent rhythm. Now, we just need to continue with the good job we've done so far – continue to match the pace of the Volkswagens and stay in the fight."
Behind, Tanak and Sordo are fourth and fifth, both making an impressive start, the latter quickest in SS2 – giving Hyundai it's very first stage win with the new i20 WRC – and he was also fastest in SS3 as well.
"I think we have to be happy with the job we have done this morning," Tanak noted. "I wasn't very confident in SS4 but generally I have been really pleased with our times. We are here, and everything is working really well at the moment."
Further back, Mads Ostberg round out the top six and he is only 0.1 seconds off P5 and only 9 seconds off the lead.
Then comes Thierry Neuville, who was not happy with the set-up of his Hyundai i20 WRC, with Henning Solberg, Juho Hanninen and Andreas Mikkelsen in positions 8 through to 10.
"I think this could be quite a good weekend for us. Everything is working well – Ilka [Minor, my co-driver] is working well, the car is working well, and if we can keep out of trouble I think it will be good. We had a puncture on SS3 which set us back a bit. We had to drive eight kilometres with the flat and I can tell you that that was not so easy!" Henning recounted.
In terms of retirements, M-Sport duo, Elfyn Evans and Robert Kubica both went out in SS4. Evans crashed his Fiesta RS WRC through a hedge, while Kubica hit a rock and lost a wheel around 10 kilometres from the end. Both crews escaped unharmed, although Kubica's incident blocked the stage for around 15 minutes. Drivers' affected were given notional times - a stroke of luck for Hanninen, as he had had to stop in SS4 to change a puncture and looked set to lose over 2 minutes.
Rally de Portugal now continues with a repeat-run through this morning three tests. SS5, Silves 2, is due to start at 14.51 hours local time.
Rally de Portugal: Overall standings after Stage 4 (Top 10):
1. Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 44m 28.3s M
2. Jari-Matti Latvala Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +00m 00.4s M
3. Mikko Hirvonen M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +00m 02.3s M
4. Ott Tanak M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +00m 05.5s
5. Dani Sordo Hyundai Motorsport N i20 WRC +00m 08.9s M
6. Mads Ostberg Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +00m 09.0s M
7. Thierry Neuville Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +00m 33.6s M
8. Henning Solberg Ford Fiesta RS WRC +01m 06.4s
9. Juho Hanninen Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +01m 08.8s M
10. Andreas Mikkelsen Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC +01m 22.2s M
11. Kris Meeke Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +01m 25.6s M
12. Martin Prokop Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +01m 34.8s M
13. Nasser Al-Attiyah Ford Fiesta RRC +01m 39.2s WRC2
14. Jari Ketomaa Ford Fiesta R5 +01m 39.9s WRC2
15. Karl Kruuda Ford Fiesta S2000 +02m 19.9s WRC2
16. Pontus Tidemand Ford Fiesta R5 +02m 21.9s WRC2
17. Bernardo Sousa Ford Fiesta RRC +02m 30.7s WRC2
18. Khalid Al-Qassimi Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +02m 32.7s M
WRC2 standings after Stage 4 (Top 3):
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah Ford Fiesta RRC 46m 07.5s WRC2
2. Jari Ketomaa Ford Fiesta R5 +01m 00.7s WRC2
3. Karl Kruuda Ford Fiesta S2000 +02m 40.7s WRC2
JWRC / WRC3 standings after Stage 4 (Top 3):
1. Alastair Fisher Citroen DS3 R3T 48m 26.3s WRC3
2. Simone Campedelli Citroen DS3 R3T +00m 28.3s WRC3
3. Martin Koci Citroen DS3 R3T +00m 29.4s WRC3
SS4. Elfyn Evans M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC Went off the road M
SS4. Robert Kubica RK M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC Lost a wheel M
all times unofficial
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