Volkswagen's Sebastien Ogier has blamed two punctures after missing out on second position on Rally de Portugal, although he also emphasised that team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen did a “really good job” to beat him.
Ogier held second at the end of day two, despite having been first on the road, but after picking up two punctures in the first test on Sunday, eased his pace somewhat to ensure he could complete the final stages, topping up one of the flat tyres with air to get to the end, although he was still quickest in the Power Stage. In the end he finished 34.5secs off event winner Kris Meeke – and 4.8secs shy of Mikkelsen in P2.
“First I need to congratulate Andreas and Anders [Jaeger – his co-driver]. They had a really good speed this morning and they have done a really good job [to beat me and get second]. At the same time [though], I think I was not so lucky. It has been a tough weekend overall,” Ogier said.
“Of course, the two first days I knew it would be tough and I would lose time but I was very happy to have second place on Saturday night – that was a great result for me. And of course, the plan was to hold it today.
“But it started with the first slow puncture, in the beginning of the first stage this morning. That cost us a bit of time – it is not easy to say how much but I drove 15 kilometres with a slow puncture on the front. Luckily, the tyre stayed on the rim – that was a miracle – and I didn't lose even more time.
"But then I was under pressure for the rest of the day because I could not get another puncture as that would have meant zero points for me here. And that was not an option I wanted to have. So I tried to carry good speed for the rest of the morning. But at the same time, Andreas was driving well and fast and it was not enough to try to catch back second place.”
Despite finishing third, however, Ogier still increased his championship lead, stretching it to 47 points.
“Now after five rounds, we have managed to improve the gap on every event, compared to second. It is always my main target when I start a rally – try to beat second in the championship and increase the gap. We have done it again and we have almost a two-win advantage now. So for the points, it's a great operation and I am happy with that. Anyway, I have the feeling that I gave everything I could this weekend and achieved the maximum I could achieve,” he added.
Meanwhile, looking to the next event in Sardinia, Ogier expects it to be tough and thinks it will again be very difficult for him to win.
“Let's say if you want my true feeling, it is normally one of the most difficult rallies to open the road. I know it is going to be a tough one, once again. But I hope I will be at least a little bit more lucky than this weekend
“Once again, I think it will be too optimistic to speak about victory but I will try again to score good points and try to make this plan working again, to beat the second guy in the championship.”