Volkswagen Motorsport II man Andreas Mikkelsen was quickest this morning in the shakedown for Rally de Portugal, while Mads Ostberg rolled his Citroen DS 3 WRC.
Mikkelsen, who is making his competitive debut this weekend with the second generation Polo R WRC, opted for four runs through the 4.60 km test, setting his best time on his final pass, when he completed it in 3 minutes 11.3 seconds.
“Naturally it was a successful debut with the new Polo R WRC and I got to grips with the car right away. It's the first time racing in the second generation car for me and there are a number of differences compared with the tried and tested Polo that I am used to driving. Overall it embodies the ultimate World Rally Car for me,” Mikkelsen said.
“We completed a good test ahead of the rally and it is very convenient using a paddle to change gears on the steering wheel directly. The shakedown itself was a very demanding, slippery, brief stage, which gave us a good taster of the coming days here in Portugal. We are ready.”
Meanwhile, team-mates Sebastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala came in second and third, 1.3s and 1.8s slower respectively.
“It is great to be back in Portugal,” Ogier remarked. “Without a doubt it is one of my favourite rallies, and I am already looking forward to starting in the north this time. The special stages are extremely demanding. Almost everything is new to us as drivers and co-drivers - and that makes it all the more interesting. Julien [Ingrassia – my co-driver] and I will give it our all right from the word go. You can count on that. Clever tyre selection will be crucial. The shakedown went smoothly from start to finish.”
“I'm looking forward to the new, old Rally Portugal in the north. The atmosphere is fantastic and the many fans are frenetic in their support for us as drivers and co-drivers,” Latvala added. “That always gives us that extra bit of motivation. The shakedown was really sandy. This type of gravel track is typical of the coming days and it suits me. We got into a good rhythm and are ready for the Rally Portugal.”
M-Sport's Ott Tanak and Hyundai's Dani Sordo were next up and joint fourth, 0.3s off Latvala, with former F1 driver Robert Kubica sixth on his return to the WRC, after missing Rally Argentina last month to allow him to restructure his team.
Rally Argentina winner Kris Meeke took seventh in his DS 3 WRC, ahead of Hyundai duo Hayden Paddon and Thierry Neuville in eighth and ninth.
“This stage isn't all that representative of the rest of the rally. It was just a matter of getting up to speed this morning. I didn't do too many runs. Later on, other drivers had better conditions in which to go faster. The times aren't that important, really. The main aim was to have a good feeling,” Meeke explained.
Elfyn Evans completed the top ten, one spot ahead of Ostberg, who after his accident just 500 metres in on his first run, got back out and did two passes. The Norwegian later confirmed he just misheard a pacenote.
“We rolled twice this morning,” said Ostberg. “We were a bit lucky, because the damage wasn't that serious. The team did an excellent job, enabling us to get back out on the stage fairly quickly and in good shape. In the end, I haven't felt this happy after a shakedown for some time!”
Rally de Portugal now begins this evening with the ceremonial start and the short 3.36 km Lousada opening super special stage, scheduled to start at 19.01 hours local time. The rally then starts 'proper' on Friday - with six stages on the bill and a total competitive distance of almost 130 km. Full itinerary for event available - HERE
2015 Rally de Portugal: Shakedown times (Top 10):
1. Andreas Mikkelsen
Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC 3m 11.3s
2. Sebastien Ogier
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 3m 12.6s
3. Jari-Matti Latvala
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 3m 13.1s
4. Ott Tanak
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC 3m 13.4s
= Dani Sordo
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC 3m 13.4s
6. Robert Kubica
Ford Fiesta RS WRC 3m 13.6s
7. Kris Meeke
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC 3m 14.0s
8. Hayden Paddon
Hyundai Motorsport N i20 WRC 3m 14.3s
9. Thierry Neuville
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC 3m 14.6s
10. Elfyn Evans
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC 3m 14.9s
11. Mads Ostberg
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC 3m 17.3s
12. Martin Prokop
Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2m 18.7s
M denotes Manufacturer entry
all times unofficial