FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP (WRC 2015): CITROËN TOTAL ABU DHABI WORLD RALLY TEAM- KRIS MEEKE POSITIONED AS THE HUNTER
WRC A FULL 2015
KRIS MEEKE POSITIONED AS THE HUNTER.
Having secured their first World Championship win at the start of the month, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle are among the frontrunners once again in Portugal.
On brand-new stages, they ended the first leg in second place overall. Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson hold seventh position.
In the third DS 3 WRC, Khalid Al Qassimi and Chris Patterson had to retire for the day before the start of the fourth stage.
VODAFONE RALLY DE PORTUGAL (21-24/05/2015) – DAY 1
22 May 2015
This year, Rally de Portugal has left the Algarve to set up base 550 kilometres further north. Centred around Porto, the rally has returned to a region that loves racing, with huge crowds lining the roads.
Abandoned since 2001, these stages are therefore totally unfamiliar to all the World Championship drivers. The conditions thus provided Kris Meeke with an opportunity to demonstrate his impressive ability to adapt to a situation.
Starting in fifth position, the Northern Irishman produced consistently strong performances in the morning loop to move into second overall. The very slippery road surface changed as the day wore on. Often becoming quicker, the lines were also dirtied by rocks pulled out as more cars came through the stages. In opting to go with soft tyres in the afternoon, he ended the leg in second place, eleven seconds behind the leader, Jari-Matti Latvala.
Second in the Drivers’ Championship, Mads Østberg had to contend with a much tougher starting position. Forced to sweep the loose gravel off the racing line, the Norwegian lost a lot of time on Ponte de Lima (SS2) and Viana do Castelo (SS4). On a less demanding road surface, he nonetheless set the fastest time on the 18 kilometre-long SS3! On the second loop, Mads confirmed his pace to end the day in seventh place, around twenty seconds adrift of his team-mate.
The third driver competing for Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team this weekend, Khalid Al Qassimi found himself stuck at the start of the fourth stage with a handbrake problem. The Abu Dhabi driver will rejoin the rally tomorrow.
In his DS 3 R5, Stéphane Lefebvre ended the opening leg in fourth position in the WRC2 standings. Increasingly close the stage-winning times, the Frenchman racked up further experience without making any mistakes.
In the FIA Junior WRC championship, the Frenchmen Quentin Gilbert and Terry Folb finished the day ahead of the Norwegian Ole-Christian Veiby. The three DS 3 R3s also dominated the WRC3 category.
On Saturday, the longest day of the rally will get underway at 7.30am. 165.40 kilometres of timed sections will be spread across three stages, each run two times, with service periods in Matosinhos at 1pm and 6.35pm.
Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal): “Kris and Mads both had a very good day. With different difficulties due to their respective starting positions, they made the most of a reliable car in what were really tough conditions, especially on the second loop. Kris managed his race perfectly, even though tyre choice wasn’t easy. Mads did more than hold his own given that he was second on the road. He pretty much matched Sébastien Ogier’s times. The aim is to keep doing the same thing, like in Argentina, and for both DS 3 WRCs to finish as high as possible.”
Mads Østberg: “I really enjoyed these stages even though the conditions were difficult. I learned a lot by starting in second position on the road. Obviously, I’m not really pleased with the overall position, but this is where I expected to be at the end of the first day. The roads on tomorrow’s stages should be better for us. We also made good tyre choices which leaves us with options for the rest of the rally.”
Kris Meeke: “We weren’t really expecting the roads to change so much between the two runs. At the midday service, we had to take a gamble based on the data we had. In hindsight, if we did it all again, I think I would have gone for a slightly different set-up and tyres. We still managed to be pretty quick and consistent. You can see that in the overall standings! Tomorrow, we’ll be tackling more new stages. We’ll need to keep up the same pace.”
Khalid Al Qassimi: “We had to retire due to a mechanical problem. The handbrake became stuck at the start of SS4. I’m really disappointed, but that’s part and parcel of racing. There were a lot of rocks on the stages. I tried to avoid them on SS2 and I took a few more risks on SS3. There’s plenty of room for improvement, depending on the state of the roads.”
Stéphane Lefebvre: “The roads were very rough this afternoon, but we enjoyed ourselves in the DS 3 R5. The times we set were pretty good. We now lie fourth in the WRC2 category but this is just the first day of the rally. There is still a long way to go and we’ll have to keep up the same pace.”
HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED
SS1 – Lousada (3.36km) – The rally kicked off with a super special stage held on a mixed gravel/tarmac surface. Andreas Mikkelsen set the fastest time. Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg finished in the top 7, two seconds off the pace.
SS2 – Ponte de Lima 1 (27.53km) – On a particularly dusty, loose surface, the early runners carved out the racing line. Dani Sordo set the fastest time to become the new overall leader. Kris Meeke grabbed the fourth fastest time, whilst Mads Østberg was eighth. Adopting a cautious approach, given the large number of rocks on the racing line, Khalid Al Qassimi lost slightly over a minute. Elfyn Evans stopped due to an electrical problem.
SS3 – Caminha 1 (18.05km) – On faster and harder roads, Mads Østberg grabbed the stage win, followed by Jari-Matti Latvala and Kris Meeke. The Briton moved into second place overall, behind Andreas Mikkelsen.
SS4 – Viana do Castelo 1 (18.76km) – The third stage of the loop handed the drivers further down the order, with a cleaner racing line, an advantage again. The stage win went to Jari-Matti Latvala, ahead of Hayden Paddon and Kris Meeke. As the crews headed for the midday service, Latvala held a six-second lead over Meeke. Mads Østberg was sixth overall. Stuck at the start of the stage with a handbrake problem, Khalid Al Qassimi was unable to finish the leg.
SS5 – Ponte de Lima 2 (27.53km) – Forest fires on the hillsides forced the organisers to cancel the stage. A new itinerary was drawn up between the service park and the start of SS6.
SS6 – Caminha 2 (18.05km) – First on the road, Sébastien Ogier set the fastest time on the sixth stage. Kris Meeke was fourth fastest, thus consolidating his second position despite the roads breaking up very badly in places. Mads Østberg dropped back into seventh place.
SS7 – Viana do Castelo 2 (18.76km) – Conditions were again very tough on this second pass. Jari-Matti Latvala won the stage to maintain his overall lead before the crews headed back to the service park. Kris Meeke remained second, ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen, Ott Tanak, Dani Sordo, Sébastien Ogier and Mads Østberg.
STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1
1. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 1:07:19.4
2. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (DS 3 WRC) +11.1
3. Andreas Mikkelsen / Ola Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +16.0
4. Ott Tanak / Raigo Molder (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +17.8
5. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC) +21.8
6. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +25.9
7. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (DS 3 WRC) +31.3
8. Hayden Paddon / John Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +40.0
9. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:08.0
10. Robert Kubica / Maciej Szczepaniak (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:29.1…
Jari-Matti Latvala, 2 – Mads Østberg, Andreas Mikkelsen, Dani Sordo and Sébastien Ogier, 1 (1 SS cancelled).
SS1 and SS3: Andreas Mikkelsen
SS2: Dani Sordo
SS4 to SS7: Jari-Matti Latvala
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