Volkswagen Motorsport’s Sebastien Ogier leads the 2013 Vodafone Rally de Portugal after the first four of the opening day’s stages, regaining the lead from Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mads Ostberg who retired after a roll on stage three. Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team driver Daniel Sordo closed the gap on the leader throughout the first four timed tests, leaving him just 2.4 seconds off the lead as the crews headed for Lisbon and the evening’s Super Special Stage.
With the focus on the drivers making the finish, due to the limit of just 24 tyres for the entire event, the first day of the rally saw crews using different tactics and driving styles.
Ogier took the win on the first stage, using four soft tyres in a gamble that he would be able to manage them throughout the five stages that make up the first day, without a service halt to replace them. However, his gamble didn't pay off on the second stage, with Ostberg going almost eight seconds faster and pulling out a 3.9s lead over the VW driver in stage two.
The lead was short-lived though, as Ostberg clipped a bank after misinterpreting a pace-note on the following stage and the car rolling heavily and into retirement from the day.
Speaking to the press, Ostberg said: “Basically I think I misheard a pace-note, or made a mistake. I thought this corner was a five left minus, definitely not. I hit the bank on the inside, rolled over the bank onto the roof and landed on the small road below. It was quite a hard crash. The car isn’t so bad, there's nothing on the roll cage with is a good thing. The right front corner is ripped off. The guys will probably fix it tonight.”
Stages three and four saw Ogier retain his lead despite an impressive charge from Sordo who closed the gap from 4.4s at the end of stage three to just 2.4s at the end of stage four.
Jari-Matti Latvala finished the four stages 11.3s behind the leader in third position, despite initial concerns the car doesn’t yet match his driving style. Fourth position is currently held by Mikko Hirvonen in the second Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team DS3 WRC, while Qatar World Rally Team’s Thierry Neuville currently holds fifth.
In WRC2 Skoda Motorsport’s Esapekka Lappi leads despite being unhappy with his pace-notes throughout stages one and two. With improvements to the notes for the final two stages he finished 23.5s ahead of Robert Kubica in his Citroen DS3 RRC. The former F1 driver survived a small scare, when he punctured both a tyre and his radiator but repairs allowed him to post an impressive time on the fourth stage, just 0.1s slower than Lappi on his WRC gravel debut. Elfyn Evans currently holds third position in the WRC2 class in his Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team Fiesta RRC, just 3.4s behind Kubica despite targeting experience from the event on his first WRC event in the Fiesta.
In WRC 3, reigning British Rally Champion Keith Cronin leads, having suffered one small mistake on a pace-note in stage two and stalling on the start of the first stage. Alistair Fisher finished a close second despite suspension trouble on stage four while Sebastien Chardonnet completed the opening stages in third position.
In the Junior WRC class, Pontius Tidemund holds the lead in the class, after a pair of stage wins and is 26.4s ahead of Jose Antonio Suarez. Marius Assen holds third after the first four stages.