for Rally de Portugal leaderboard after SS12
Kris Meeke made the most of his superior road position to extend his Rally de Portugal lead to over a minute on Saturday's morning loop.
Meeke began the second leg with a 31.9 second advantage, and was unbeatable in all three tests in his Citroen DS 3 WRC car, gaining around 10 seconds in each stage on nearest rival Sebastien Ogier. The Briton now heads back for the mid-day service with his lead up to 1 minute 2.9 seconds.
“There's quite a bit of cleaning and a lot more grip than I expected. I'm going to make the most of the advantage while it's here. I'm paid to do a job, I drive the road in front of me and I'm happy!” Meeke said after SS10, the first of the day.
Speaking after SS12, he added: “Pretty good. It was really nice this morning, even more relaxed than yesterday. There is more road cleaning [today] and we are benefitting from that but Seb should not be worried about me. I'm going to run this car back and I'm going to make the most of it.”
Meanwhile, Ogier lost out running first in the order, although he was still quick: fourth fastest in SS10 and third in SS11 and SS12.
“The cleaning effect was not so good for me this morning,” said the Volkswagen driver. “It's not the same as yesterday morning. I was hoping for a little more dampness. If it does come later it will be too late. But I was really happy with my driving. I was on the limit. I couldn't do more than that.”
Behind, Volkswagen Motorsport II pilot Andreas Mikkelsen upped his pace and overhauled Hyundai's Dani Sordo for third in the final test of the loop. The two are now split by 4.9secs, with Mikkelsen 12.8secs off Ogier in P2.
“I'm sick and tired of going slow! So now we push, it was a good stage,” Mikkelsen noted after SS10. “The car is awesome today, well done to my engineers. I'm enjoying it. Whatever they did it made a difference.”
Behind, Eric Camilli holds a lonely fifth for M-Sport, over a minute off the fight ahead, and over 1.5 minutes up on Jari-Matti Latvala after the Finn lost his power steering on Friday afternoon.
“This morning has been really good for us, and we are very, very happy. We had a lot of confidence and trust in the car and a very good set-up – our engineer has worked really hard and done a great job on the chassis,” said Camilli.
“To be honest, nothing has changed compared to yesterday – we have just improved our driving and our notes and have more experience on the road. We still have a lot more to learn, but it's great to see that we can be this competitive.
“We're in fifth place now, so the plan will be to maintain that. We still have much to learn and little to gain in the overall standings so it's important for us to finish all of the stages and get the maximum experience from the weekend.”
Mads Ostberg has slipped to seventh, haemorrhaging time in SS11 and SS12 with a broken driveshaft.
“It's not been the easiest of mornings,” Ostberg reflected. “We had a problem with the rear driveshaft on the second stage [of the morning, SS11] and lost the drive on the rear. Then on the last stage [of the morning, SS12] we lost a further two minutes carrying the problem.
“You never know what can happen, and this rally has been really eventful so far! Once the technicians get the car fixed, we just have to try and push again. Yesterday afternoon I actually had a really good feeling with the car. When there is more grip, the issues that we are having with the downshifts isn't really a problem. Hopefully that will be the case again today and we can have a good run without any problems.”
Further back, WRC 2 class leader Pontus Tidemand is eighth in his Skoda Fabia R5, with Ford privateer Martin Prokop ninth and nearest WRC2 class rival Nicolas Fuchs tenth, 1min 22.2secs adrift.
As for retirements, Stephane Lefebvre went out in the first test of the day after hitting a rock and breaking a front suspension arm. He had been sixth overall. Kevin Abbring, returning under Rally 2, also hit a rock in that test and was forced out, joined on the sidelines a stage later by team-mate Thierry Neuville. Neuville had been fifth, but stopped in SS11 when he ran out of fuel. Elfyn Evans was the only other notable casualty, rolling his Fiesta R5 in SS12. After a turbo change last night, Evans had been back on the pace and was up to second in WRC2 until his off.
Day two of Rally de Portugal now continues this afternoon with a repeat-run through all three of this morning's stages. SS13, the 18.66km Baiao 2 test, is due to get underway at 15.32 hours local time.
for Rally de Portugal leaderboard after SS12