M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt are back in business – their EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC currently holding second position at Vodafone Rally de Portugal. With Teemu Suninen and Mikko Markkula in fourth place, the team are on course for another positive result.
There was however less good news for World Champions Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia – an impressive performance through the morning stages going unrewarded when an uncharacteristic mistake forced them to retire for the day.
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s been a really good day for both Elfyn and Teemu. There was a point where we didn’t think we would be in this position, but it really was a great job from the pair of them this afternoon.
“We’ve been waiting for Elfyn to get his season started, and it’s great to see him in such a strong position at the end of the day. We’re starting to see the same Elfyn Evans that we saw last year and it’s a good confidence boost for him and the team.
“Teemu has had the brakes let off today. He was under strict orders to finish the last two events, but he knows this rally so we gave him an opportunity to push. We’re seeing some great pace from him and I think he’s really enjoyed his day.
“As for Sébastien, he had another fantastic drive this morning, but it all went wrong this afternoon. It was a rare mistake from him. He just cut a corner a little too tight and there was a tree stump that broke the suspension. On the next corner he understeered straight off the road and there was too much damage to continue.
“He’ll be back out on the stages tomorrow, but all he can realistically aim for now are some points in the Power Stage.”
EVANS AND BARRITT
Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt were looking for a return to form this weekend, and the pairing are on course to do just that – currently holding second place at Rally de Portugal.
Quick out of the box, the Brits set the second fastest time through the first stage of the day – launching them into podium position. A spin combined with some of the most challenging conditions dropped them down the order as the morning continued, but they quickly recovered.
As the stages got more and more treacherous over the second pass, the Brits made their move. Finding the perfect balance between speed and risk, an intelligent drive and clever tyre choice delivered a series of consistently competitive stage times.
Regaining his second positon, the Welshmen has finished the opening day just 17.7 seconds adrift of the lead with two more days of challenging terrain left to contest.
SS1: =7th (+1.6)
SS2: 2nd (+2.3)
SS3: 11th (+9.2)
SS4: 9th (+15.4)
SS5: 6th (+2.2)
SS6: 4th (+2.1)
SS7: 2nd (+3.9)
SS8: 7th (+5.9)
SS9: 4th (+4.5)
Elfyn Evans (2nd) said:
“It’s good to be in this position at the end of the day. I felt that our driving was pretty good on the whole, but there are still some things we can improve and we’ll be working on that tomorrow. We’ve just got to keep going and fight for the best result possible.”
SUNINEN AND MARKKULA
Teemu Suninen and Mikko Markkula may be experiencing the Rally de Portugal stages for the first time with the EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC, but that hasn’t stopped them showcasing their potential.
Currently holding fourth place, the Finns have excelled. Mastering the tricky conditions, they kept well clear of the pitfalls that caught out a number of their more experienced rivals – posting a series of highly competitive stage times along the way.
Just 0.2 seconds shy of the fastest time through the second pass of Caminha (SS6), Suninen’s development continues at pace – with opportunity for further improvements over the remaining two days of competition.
SS1: =2nd (+0.4)
SS2: 6th (+7.5)
SS3: 9th (+6.0)
SS4: 11th (+17.3)
SS5: 3rd (+1.4)
SS6: 3rd (+0.2)
SS7: NOMINAL TIME 6th (+21.2)
SS8: 5th (+5.0)
SS9: 5th (+4.8)
Teemu Suninen (4th) said:
“I was happy with my pace – especially on the second loop when I did some really good stage times. I was just a bit disappointed with SS4 where I was a bit too careful and lost a lot of time. That tells me that I need to go flat-out all the time, and that’s what we plan to do tomorrow.”
OGIER AND INGRASSIA
Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia got this year’s Rally de Portugal off to a near-perfect start on Friday morning, but a record-breaking sixth victory on Portuguese soil wasn’t to be – an uncharacteristic mistake putting paid to their chances of challenging for the win.
Opening the road and sweeping a clean line through the loose gravel, the French pairing knew that it would be difficult to limit the time loss but produced another sensational drive through the morning stages.
Pushing hard, a series of consistently strong times saw Ogier holding fourth place at the midday regroup – just over seven seconds shy of the lead before his day came to an untimely end through the second pass of Viana do Castelo (SS5).
Damaging the suspension of his EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC in a cut, he ran wide into the next corner and all hope of victory ended in the trees.
SS1: =2nd (+0.4)
SS2: 8th (+12.2)
SS3: 2nd (+1.1)
SS4: 3rd (+1.8)
Sébastien Ogier (Rally 2) said:
"I went just a couple of centimetres too deep into a right-hand corner. There was a bank and I thought it would be okay to touch it a little, but unfortunately there was something there – a small root [or tree stump].
“It was a small, short impact on the suspension, but it was enough to break it. In the next corner nothing happened when I braked – I couldn't turn and went straight into the trees. It was my mistake and I shouldn't have touched the bank – those two or three centimetres have cost us a lot this weekend.”
1. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) 1:37:30.7
2. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +17.7
3. Dani Sordo / Carlos del Barrio (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +24.3
4. Teemu Suninen / Mikko Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) +34.4
5. Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +45.8
6. Mads Østberg / Torstein Eriksen (Citroen DS3 WRC) +48.3
7. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroen DS3 WRC) +1:18.7
8. Craig Breen / Scott Martin (Citroen DS3 WRC) +2:27.3
9. Gus Greensmith / Craig Parry (Ford Fiesta R5) +6:57.1
10. Lukasz Pieniazek / Przemyslaw Mazur (Skoda Fabia R5) +7:31.9