Saturday morning: Battle of the VWs

13 abril 2013

The first three stages of the second day of 2013 Vodafone Rally de Portugal saw plenty more action and a fair portion of drama as the crews tackled three stages to the north of Faro. All three stage wins went to a Volkswagen Motorsport driver, with Sebastien Ogier maintaining a slender lead ahead of team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala.

There was early drama on the stages, with Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT driver Dani Sordo, who had been pushing Ogier hard throughout the first day and was tantalisingly close at the start of day two, going off the road in the first stage. Both crew members were OK but their rally was effectively over and this promoted Latvala to second overall.

Latvala, who was clearly happier with the conditions and the behaviour of his VW PoloR, went on to take the win on the first two stages of the day, to close to 10.1s of Ogier despite admitting he was looking more at the gap behind him to third-placed Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT’s Mikko Hirvonen.

However, Ogier, who appeared to be feeling the effects of the virus, responded on the last of the three stages, taking the win and stretching his advantage back to 14.1s. Hirvonen maintained third place, with third-fastest times on each of the three timed tests, to end the morning 37.2s off the lead.

The third VW PoloR, of Andreas Mikkelsen, was on a move, setting stage times comparable with Ostberg who was putting in a very good performance, sweeping the road clean as the first car and Evgeny Novikov, who felt that the times did not represent his efforts.

The result was Mikkelsen climbed from 14th at the start of the morning to eighth as the crews arrived at the service park outside Faro for the mid-day service.

In addition to Sordo, there were problems for more drivers, with Thierry Neuville breaking his suspension, Elfyn Evans suffering transmission problems and stopping, PG Andersson’s engine failing before the start of the first stage and Robert Kubica losing his handbrake and hydraulic gear shift system.

In WRC2, Esapekka Lappi took the win on each of the stages, to amass a three-minute lead by the mid-point of the day, ahead of Irishman Robert Barrable and Edoardo Bresolin in third.

In WRC3, fellow Irishmen Keith Cronin and Alistair Fisher renewed their battle from day one on the first stage, separated by just 1s. However, both stopped in the second after the water splash and although Fisher was able to get going again, Cronin could not. This, and a win on the second stage and problems for Sebastien Chardonnay, promoted Bryan Bouffier to the lead with a seven-minute advantage by the mid-point of the day.

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