Rally de Portugal – Day 1

(29 MARCH – 01 APRIL 2012)

At the end of a dramatic opening day of competition in Rally de Portugal, Ford drivers Jari-Matti Latvala and Petter Solberg hold first and second positions respectively, the team-mates split by just 2.6 seconds. Third position is held by Mikko Hirvonen, but the Citroën team has suffered massive disappointment following the retirement of reigning World Champion Sébastien Loeb after he went off the road this evening.

The fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship started this afternoon in Lisbon, where crews tackled a spectacular 3.27 kilometre super special stage around the streets of the city. However, after this show-opening test, the action headed into the hills for three stages run in darkness and resulted in early dramas for a number of the leading crews. In total, today’s four stages covered 38.85 competitive kilometres.

Solberg won the opening stage in Lisbon and carried his lead through the following stage. However, Latvala then overhauled his team-mate in the following stage and maintained the overnight lead after the fourth stage of the day. Both ran without problems from their chosen road positions further back down the field. In contrast, Hirvonen elected to run first, hoping for the best of the conditions. He too completed the day successfully and is five seconds off the lead, the team’s hopes now resting on the Finn’s shoulders. Ott Tänak, is fourth, the Estonian winning stage four and staying within the grasp of the leading trio. Citroën Junior Team driver Thierry Neuville is further adrift but in a fine fifth overall, while Mads Østberg is now playing catch-up after losing time with a puncture in stage three. He is sixth overnight.

Behind the top six, Dani Sordo’s MINI John Cooper Works WRC experienced an electrical problem, leaving him with just one working headlight in the first night stage. As a consequence, he failed to start the third stage. Local hero Armindo Araújo went off the road in stage two following a pace note problem and the Portuguese is way down the leaderboard, over six minutes adrift. Friday’s route takes in six special stages and 132.68 competitive kilometres.

Rally de Portugal – Results after Day 1

1. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila
2. Petter Solberg/Chris Patterson
3. Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen
4. Ott Tänak/Kuldar Sikk
5. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul
6. Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson
7. Evgeny Novikov/Denis Giraudet
8. Jari Ketomaa/Mika Stenberg
9. Hayden Paddon/John Kennard
10. Dennis Kuipers/Robin Buysmans

Ford Fiesta RS WRC
Citroën DS3 WRC
Skoda Fabia S2000