for Rally de Portugal leaderboard after SS4
Kris Meeke has taken the lead on Rally de Portugal following Friday's morning loop, winning two of the three stages in his Citroen DS 3 WRC.
Meeke, who returns to competitive action this weekend after missing Argentina and Mexico, was quickest in the first stage of the day, the 27.44km Ponte de Lima 1 test, 5.6 seconds up on Sebastien Ogier.
The Briton then went quickest again in SS3, 2.4secs up on his French rival, and while he had to settle for second in SS4, he was only 0.2secs off stage winner, Jari-Matti Latvala, and 5.6secs up on Ogier, despite picking up a slow puncture. Meeke now heads into the mid-day service in Exponor with an 11.5sec advantage.
“I could smell something strange, there was an impact and the car was difficult to keep in a straight line,” Meeke said after Viana Do Castelo 1. “I thought it might be a puncture. Thankfully we have tough tyres. The game plan [now] is the best result possible – we're not in the championship.”
Behind Meeke and Ogier, Dani Sordo holds third for Hyundai, 3.1secs back, having gone third quickest in SS2 and SS4 and eighth in SS3.
“Really slippery in some places,” Sordo said after the middle test of the loop. “I lost a bit of time at the end because in a fast corner, in the middle of the road there was a stone. Very slippery.”
“It was unbelievable,” the Spaniard added after SS4. “The car was perfect to drive, it was a really good car for this stage. We're happy and relaxed.”
DMACK WRT man Ott Tanak and Latvala are joint fourth, the latter not at all happy with the set-up of his Polo R WRC, even though he was quickest in SS4.
“The car is not good to drive at the moment and I can't get a good feeling,” Latvala complained. “I'm not satisfied with how it is. I've pushed as hard as I can on this stage.”
“These stages have been good,” added Tanak, who is running on the new DMACK tyres. “I'm really enjoying it. There is definitely work to do [with the new tyres], but yeah, I'm really happy.”
Further back, Rally Argentina winner Hayden Paddon finished the loop in sixth in his Hyundai, with VW Motorsport II pilot Andreas Mikkelsen seventh and suffering a scare in SS4 when he hit a rock.
“We do have a small problem,” Paddon said at the end of the loop, after earlier complaining he was down on power. “It's nothing major though, we can drive around it. It could be the differential. We'll just try and keep it out of the bushes.”
“There's a line to follow now, but there are big rocks coming out of the road,” Mikkelsen recounted. “I hit a big rock in the middle of the car [in SS4], a big bang, I hope it's okay.”
Hyundai's Thierry Neuville is next up in eighth, with Stephane Lefebvre and M-Sport's Mads Ostberg rounding out the top-ten.
In WRC2, Pontus Tidemand has been in a class of his own, winning all three stages to build a 35.2secs lead over Nicolas Fuchs. Elfyn Evans holds third, even though he said his car has 'no kick'.
As for retirements, Hyundai fourth driver Kevin Abbring was the most notable casualty, stopping 14.4km into SS3 with a broken steering arm.
The event now continues with a repeat run through this morning three tests, before competitors twice tackle the 1.85km Porto Street Stage this evening.