Day one: 84.13 miles; 9 stages Weather: sunny, 14 to 25 celsius Sebastien Ogier puts the hammer down around Thursday night’s crowd-pleaser at the Lousada rallycross track to lead overnight. But that’s as good as it’s going to get for the VW Polo driver, who is forced to give best to Kris Meeke’s flying Citroen DS 3 WRC, which is running 12 cars further back, courtesy of the Northern Irishman’s absence from the last two rallies. Not everybody makes a flying start. JariMatti Latvala and Thierry Neuville are way too steady on Friday morning’s opener. Latvala arrives at the stage end, looks at the time and put his head down. “No panic, no panic,” he said, sounding like a man who needed to take his own advice. Neuville: “I see stones everywhere.” They would be ninth and fifth respectively, transmission failure costing the Finn three minutes in the afternoon. Dani Sordo is immediately in the groove in third, with Andreas Mikkelsen lacking confidence in fourth. Behind Neuville, Stephane Lefebvre enjoys his best day yet in a DS 3 WRC in sixth.
End of day one: 1 Meeke/ Nagle 1h28m53.3s; 2 Ogier/ Ingrassia +31.9s; 3 Sordo/ Marti +37.3s; 4 Mikkelsen/jaeger +52.3s; 5 Neuville/ Gilsoul +1m12.2s; 6 Lefebvre/ Moreau +1m33.5s.
Day two: 102.70 miles; 6 stages
overcast/sunny, 12 to 20 celsius Meeke finds an extra gear on roads that clean in the morning. The DS 3 moves more than a minute clear at the front of the field before taking two spares cuts his advantage to 45s with Sunday’s four stages left. Mikkelsen closes right up to Ogier while Sordo is struggling to keep the rear of his Hyundai in the line, dropping time and slipping away from the fight for a podium place. Lefebvre hits a rock and retires, helping to elevate M-sport’s Eric Camilli. After a torrid start to the season, Camilli is flying for the first time and regularly matching the times of his more experienced team-mate Mads Ostberg, who is seventh having lost drive to the rear of his Ford on day one. Latvala passes Ostberg for sixth place on SS11, but the Finn is still struggling to find much to cheer on an event he won in fine style 12 months ago. Hyundai’s day goes from bad to worse when Kevin Abbring retires for the second morning in succession shortly before Neuville runs out of petrol following a miscalculation from the engineer regarding how much juice is needed to keep the i20 on the move through the afternoon.
End of day two: 1 Meeke/ Nagle 3h16m11.4s; 2 Ogier/ Ingrassia +45.3s; 3; Mikkelsen/jaeger +48.4s; 4 Sordo/ Marti +1m20.0s 5 Camilli/ Veillas +3m04.2s; 6 Latvala/anttila +4m07.8s
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