Rapport från Rally Portugal 30/3 - 1/4

Blå rubrik = wrc

Grön rubrik = Super 2000

Svart rubrik = GrN
Orange rubrik = WRC Academy

12-04-03 Østberg inherits first WRC victory
Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson have inherited their first World Rally Championship (WRC) win at the Vodafone Rally de Portugal following the eleventh-hour exclusion of provisional rally victors, Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen.

Last weekend’s rally proved to be one of the most eventful for decades. Whilst none of the four leading manufacturer-entered drivers were classified at the end of the event, Østberg thrived behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC in the tricky conditions. Keeping his composure throughout the four days of competition, the young Norwegian excelled where the more experienced faltered to claim the first WRC victory for a privateer since 1993.

The decision also promotes M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Evgeny Novikov and Denis Giraudet to second overall. With a sensational drive in their ALM Russia and ALM Rally.ru supported Ford Fiesta RS WRC, the youngster overcame a multitude of issues – including late dramas with a broken throttle pedal over the final loop – to claim the first ever podium for a Russian driver in the WRC. Coming into his own over the course of this season, Novikov’s second place demonstrates his potential as one of the WRC’s most gifted young talents.

Hirvonen was excluded following a report from the FIA technical delegate late Sunday night which stated his car’s clutch did not comply with the regulations. The report also stated that the turbine wheel in the car’s turbocharger exceeded the authorised diameter, but a decision on this has been postponed to allow further examinations. Citroen Total World Rally Team has appealed the exclusion with the results remaining provisional for a further seven days.

Despite missing the first round of the season, Østberg now lies third in the drivers’ standings, just nine points adrift of factory Ford driver Petter Solberg in second, and 13 from the lead. Novikov remains fifth, but extends his lead over Jari-Matti Latvala to 11 points.

Mads Østberg, Adapta World Rally Team (1st) said:
“Of course we are very happy with the win, but it is not the way we wanted to take it and I am very disappointed for Mikko [Hirvonen] as he did a fantastic job all weekend.

“But we had a really good rally ourselves and we will definitely be celebrating our ‘second’ place. Our pace was good and I felt as though we were always in control.

“We have had a great start to the season and are now in a very good position in the [drivers’] championship. We won’t be aiming for a podium in Argentina, but once we return to more familiar events we’ll certainly be pushing for more.”

Evgeny Novikov, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team (2nd) said:
“I was so happy to have achieved my first podium, and now to discover it is second place, it is the maximum we could have hoped for. Obviously I am very sorry for Mikko [Hirvonen] as he had a very good rally.

“Denis [Giraudet] and I have both been waiting for this moment for a very long time and it has been an amazing weekend for us both. He [Giraudet] has helped me a lot and I hope we can achieve more podiums together in the future.”
12-04-01 Ford Fiestas claim podium clean sweep in Rally de Portugal
Ford claimed a 1-2-3 finish with the Fiesta RS World Rally Car in Rallye de Portugal following a late-night decision to exclude winners Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen for a technical infringement on their car.

The decision means Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson claimed their maiden FIA World Rally Championship victory in this fourth round of the season. Evgeny Novikov and Denis Giraudet were promoted to second, while Ford World Rally Team’s Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson took third.

Solberg now lies second in the drivers’ standings, just four points from the lead, after a remarkable recovery in Portugal. The 37-year-old Norwegian slipped to 13th, almost seven minutes adrift of the podium, after sliding into a ditch early in the second leg of this four-day event.

Ford World Rally Team remains second in the manufacturers’ standings but has narrowed the gap at the top to just 12 points.

Hirvonen was excluded by the rally stewards following a report from the FIA technical delegate which stated his car’s clutch did not comply with the homologation form. The report also stated that the turbine wheel in the car’s turbocharger exceeded the maximum authorised diameter. A decision on this was suspended to allow the FIA technical delegate to carry out further examinations. Hirvonen’s Citroen team appealed the exclusion and the results remain provisional pending the outcome.

“Nobody likes to see the results settled in the officials’ room and I feel sorry for Mikko and Jarmo,” said Solberg. “But tonight’s events mean I’m now only four points from the lead of the championship and Ford has made a big leap forwards in the manufacturers’ standings. I can’t wait for the next round in Argentina!”

Amended final positions (subject to appeal)
1. M Østberg/J Andersson NOR Ford Fiesta RS 4hr 21min 16.1sec
2. E Novikov/D Giraudet RUS Ford Fiesta RS 4hr 22min 49.3sec
3. P Solberg/C Patterson NOR Ford Fiesta RS 4hr 23min 11.7sec
4. N Al Attiyah/G Bernacchini QAT Citroen DS3 4hr 27min 21.9sec
5. M Prokop/Z Hruza CZE Ford Fiesta RS 4hr 27min 25.3sec
6. D Kuipers/R Buysmans NED Ford Fiesta RS 4hr 28min 03.4sec
7. S Ogier/J Ingrassia FRA Skoda Fabia S2000 4hr 28min 25.1sec
8. T Neuville/N Gilsoul BEL Citroen DS3 4hr 29min 54.0sec
9. J Ketomaa/M Stenberg FIN Ford Fiesta RS 4hr 31min 08.9sec
10 P Van Merksteijn/E Chevaillier NED Citroen DS3 4hr 31min 27.1sec

1. S Loeb 66pts
2. P Solberg 62pts
3. M Østberg 53pts
4. M Hirvonen 50pts
5. E Novikov 39pts
6. J-M Latvala 28pts

1. Citroen Total WRT 108pts
2. Ford WRT 96pts
3. M-Sport Ford WRT 69pts
4. Qatar WRT 31pts
5. Mini WRT 26pts
6. Citroen Junior WRT 18pts

12-04-01 Årets VM-premiär avklarad för den svenska landslagsföraren i rally – Fredrik Åhlin
Den första deltävlingen i WRC Academy 2012 kördes under Rally de Portugal i helgen. Rallyt innebar ömsom vin ömsom vatten för Fredrik Åhlin och kartläsare Morten Abrahamsen.

Efter tio specialsträckor med ledning efter första dagen, och med bland annat 3 sträckvinster, 2 andraplatser, och som Fredrik uttrycker det själv ”- en löjlig avåkning”, blev resultatet en sjätteplats och 11 VM-poäng när klassen gick i mål på lördagen. Ett minst sagt händelserikt rally för killarna.
- ”Hur det än är så är jag nöjd ändå” säger Fredrik. ”På torsdagskvällen såg allt ut att gå enligt planen för tävlingen och vi hade en liten ledning, men det blev allt lite fel på SS6 där jag hade mitt livs löjligaste avåkning i en hastighet av 20 km/h, och jag blev minst sagt förvånad när jag märkte att avkörningen orsakade en böjd hjulupphängning, vilket gjorde att vi tvingades bryta för dagen”.

Det var tuffa förhållanden under rallyt. Tungt regn med massor av vatten och lera på vägarna ställde till det för många av ekipagen. De tre sista sträckorna på fredag fick ställas in på grund av vädret och bortspolade vägar.
- ”En böjd hjulupphängning innebär inte med automatik även en böjd nacke. Här var det bara att räta på ryggen och stå på igen när vi startade om under lördagen” berättar Fredrik, som efter målgång lyckats vinna två av de tre avslutande sträckorna.
- ”Vi hade kunnat vinna alla tre sträckor under lördagen men tappade tyvärr tio sekunder i en hårnål på näst sista sträckan där vi fastnade ett tag. Men trots det kom vi tvåa på den sträckan, endast slagna med sju tiondelar! Skönt att vi kommit igång nu och att premiären är avklarad. Vi har visat att vi är en av de snabbaste i klassen och vi kommer att slåss för att vinna årets WRC Academy” avslutar Fredrik.

Nästa deltävling i WRC Academy körs under Akropolisrallyt i Grekland med start den 25 maj.
12-04-01 Elsewhere end of day quotes Rally Portugal day 4
Mads Østberg, Adapta World Rally Team, Ford Fiesta RS WRC (2nd)

“I don’t know if I am more happy with second place or with making it to the end of the rally! It has been really hard for me to hold back over the last two days because we have slowed down a lot.

“We had a good fight with Evgeny [Novikov], but I felt I was in control most of the time. Today it was just about getting through and I am really happy to make it to the end with such a good result.

“We have had a great start to the season and hopefully it will continue. We are not expecting to fight for a podium in Argentina but we will be looking to make it into the top-five. Then when we return to more familiar events we can push some more.”

Martin Prokop, Ford Fiesta RS WRC (6th)
“The last two stages [SS21 and SS22] were really very difficult. There was water everywhere so we decided not to push and just to make it to the finish.

“It was a shame to lose out to Nassar [Al-Attiyah] on the last stage [SS22]. But we have secured sixth place which is very good result for us and I am very happy with this weekend.”

Jari Ketomaa, Ford Fiesta RS WRC (10th)
“This was a very difficult rally for us, but today felt great. Everything was much better than on the previous days, but unfortunately the rally is at an end now.

“Of course it is great to have scored a world championship point, but we could have been fighting for the top-five. I am just happy to have made it through considering all the problems we have had.”

Daniel Oliveira, Brazil World Rally Team, Ford Fiesta RS WRC (13th)
“This was a very nice rally. It was not so good at the beginning but we were starting to get a good feeling in the car towards the end and we were building in confidence all the time.

“The next rally for us will be in Argentina where we know the stages a little better. I hope we can be a little more competitive there and push a bit more.”

Maciek Oleksowicz, Ford Fiesta S2000 (18th)
“I am happy to have made it to the finish because I think we have had everything this rally. Fog, rain, dry conditions, everything! We have to work a little bit on our speed, but we didn’t make any serious mistakes or have any issues with the car. Second place really is fantastic for us!”
12-04-01 Podium for Novikov as Tänak steals power stage point
After one of the most dramatic events the World Rally Championship (WRC) has seen for decades at the 20123 Vodafone Rally de Portugal, Evgeny Novikov had a sensational drive to secure his best ever result and the first podium ever for a Russian driver. Similarly, Dennis Kuipers impressed to secure seventh place on his return to the WRC. Elsewhere, after an eventful rally for Ott Tänak, the young Estonian shone over the final stage to claim his first Power Stage point.

In what has been far from a trouble free rally, Novikov and co-driver Denis Giraudet kept their composure throughout the weekend. Suffering intercom problems on Day 2, the pairing were forced to use the road head-set – Giraudet using all of his expertise with one hand on the microphone and one on his notes throughout the morning loop! On Day 3 an issue with a misfiring engine recurred to blight the duo. But, unfazed by the problems and ever focussed, Novikov thrived in the tricky conditions to lay third overall heading into the final day.

Similarly, Kuipers put in an impressive drive on his return to the WRC. Getting to grips back behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC, the Dutchman’s times improved throughout the weekend. Building his partnership with new-for-2012 co-driver Robin Buysmans, Kuipers prospered where the more experienced faltered, keeping his Fiesta on the road and securing seventh position heading into the final 155.08 km.

Elsewhere, there were mixed fortunes for Tänak and co-driver Kuldar Sikk. The Estonian shone on Day 1, claiming his first stage win on gravel, a full 1.4 seconds clear of rally-winner Mikko Hirvonen. ‘Best of the rest’, Tänak lay fourth heading into Day 2. Regrettably, with treacherous conditions catching out a number of highly experienced competitors – including both factory Ford drivers – the youngster slid off the road and collided with unsighted rocks rejoining the stage. Despite being relegated to the back of the field, Tänak’s knowledge of the event grew as the youngster set some competitive times, rarely out of the top-five, over the remaining tests.

Embarking on the final day of competition, M-Sport’s young guns headed to the hills north-west of Faro. On course for his best ever result, Novikov conserved his podium position over the morning loop. Unfazed by the problems inflicting an ailing Mads Østberg on three cylinders ahead, the young Russian’s maturity shone through as he focussed on his own pace. Folding his balaclava neatly on his lap at the stage end, Novikov had everything under control heading into the final loop.

On a flyer, Kuipers targeted sixth place over the morning loop. More than comfortable behind the wheel of his Fiesta RS WRC, the Dutchman took 21.9 seconds out of Martin Prokop’s lead over the first three stages, reducing the gap to just 20.4 seconds. Eager to secure sixth position, Kuipers was a man on a mission heading into the final loop.

After setting a stunning time over the opening stage – with the fourth fastest time just 4.9 adrift of Dani Sordo – there were further misfortunes for Tänak. Knocking the rear of the car and breaking the toe-link bracket about 25 kilometers into SS18, followed by a consequential loss of brakes, the Estonian lost over two and a half minutes. Getting the car repaired in Service, the youngster was looking for a good position going into the final loop and the all important Power Stage.

Embarking on the second loop there was late drama for Novikov as the throttle peddle became loose 500 meters into SS20. Losing time, but making it through the 21.42 km test, the peddle was completely off at the stage end. With Giraudet desperately trying to fix the problem on the road section, the Frenchman’s expertise got the pairing’s Ford Fiesta RS WRC running again. But there would be no maximum attack from the young Russian as he nursed his Fiesta through the final two stages to hold off a resurgent Petter Solberg in the factory Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

Giraudet’s ingenuity paid dividends for the long 31.04 km of SS21. Despite losing over a minute and a half to Solberg, Novikov held a 34.2 second advantage going into the final Power Stage. Although his throttle problem hindered any chance of bonus points over the final test, an elated Novikov made it through the stage to become the first Russian and youngest driver ever to stand on the WRC podium. The pairings success was also Giraudet’s first time back on the podium since 2002.

Kuipers continued his impressive rally over the remaining loop. Despite being unable to catch Prokop for sixth, the Dutchman put in a sterling performance to seventh on his first event of 2012.

Elsewhere, a difficult event for Tänak concluded with a high when the young Estonian powered through the final stage to claim his first Power Stage point in third.

Back to his best, Novikov now lies fifth in the overall standings, eight points clear of Jari-Matti Latvala in sixth.

Evgeny Novikov (3rd) said:
“I have been waiting for this moment for a very long time. I am really very happy that we could achieve such a strong result.

“We had a scary moment on SS21 when the throttle peddle came off completely and we could only fix it on the road section. But we did so, using cable-ties and some tape!

“This really is an incredible achievement for me. I am very happy.”

Dennis Kuipers (7th) said:
“I am more than happy. I never expected this result and it is unbelievable. To have no mistakes in a rally like this is fantastic. The conditions were incredible, but we made it and I am really happy to be here.”

Ott Tänak (15th) said:
“This has been a difficult rally for us. The beginning wasn’t that bad but it just got worse and worse. Ok we finished, and managed to complete all the stages so I must take that as a positive.

“I am also very happy to have secured my first Power Stage point. But the rain was getting worse as the later cars went through so I think we may have had a small advantage.

“I’m really disappointed that we didn’t get a better result. We had a chance at a podium on this rally, but that is just the way it is. We were hoping for more.

12-04-01 Solberg fightback nets fourth for Ford in Rally de Portugal
Ford World Rally Team’s Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson finished fourth in Rally de Portugal today after a superb recovery drive that saw them power back from 13th. Their Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Car finished just 22.4sec from a podium in this fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, having been almost seven minutes adrift.

Solberg slid into a ditch and retired from the lead during Friday’s second leg of this four-day event. After restarting with a 10 minute time penalty, the 37-year-old Norwegian won four consecutive speed tests yesterday and two more today as he charged up the order. The result means Solberg retains third in the drivers’ standings with nine rounds remaining.

Team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila finished 14th in their Fiesta RS WRC after an incident-packed weekend. The 26-year-old missed out on drivers’ points, but claimed two bonus points after finishing second in the final live TV Power Stage.

Heavy rain and fog turned the rally into one of attrition. Friday’s special stages in the hills near the Algarve base of Faro were transformed into a muddy mess, and simply staying on the road became a priority. Conditions were so bad that organisers cancelled half the day’s scheduled competition.

As a result drivers tackled just 19 of the scheduled 22 stages, covering 368.43km. The Ford team won 12 stages, Solberg claiming eight victories and Latvala four.

Solberg started today’s final leg in fifth, after dropping a further 60sec with power steering problems in last night’s final test. However, he climbed to fourth and closed on third-placed Evgeny Novikov through the 115.08km of competition but fell just short of what would have been a remarkable podium.

“The weekend was a big, big adventure!” said Solberg. “To finish fourth after everything that happened is a fantastic feeling. I was so disappointed after retiring on Friday and I didn’t sleep that night. It was so muddy and foggy that I knew anything could happen – and it did.

“My times were good throughout and after being so far behind, to miss a podium by only 22sec is a little frustrating. But I mustn’t be greedy, I’m grateful for what I achieved this weekend. I scored good points and I’m in a strong championship position,” he added.

Latvala led after the opening leg but retired from the second day when he hit a rock, damaging his car’s suspension and going off the road. After restarting yesterday with time penalties, fuel pressure problems cost 12 minutes and he started today in 18th. The 26-year-old Finn won three stages to climb to 14th.

“I need to approach the rest of the year on a rally by rally basis,” said a disappointed Latvala. “It’s still early in the season and I must focus on finding that relaxed feeling again and enjoy driving. I’ve hit too many rocks this year and I need to work on that weakness. Maybe I don’t need to go quite so tight into corners and I must react faster to unexpected circumstances.

“I really appreciate the support of Malcolm Wilson and the team because, of course, we’re all disappointed to have lost so many points. A silver plate was offered to us here, but what is done is done and can’t be changed. I need to look to the future now and ensure I learn from this weekend. I’m a lot stronger mentally than I was a couple of years ago so I know I will get through this,” he said.

Ford World Rally Team director Malcolm Wilson admitted he was disappointed. “We dominated the stage times and were clearly the fastest driver / car combination, but we made two mistakes which were costly. Looking at everything that happened, I’m relieved not to lose too much ground in the championship. We need to ensure our drivers and cars work together on the next round,” he said.

Ford Racing motorsport manager Gerard Quinn said: “It was an extremely difficult rally. When you consider the preparation and competitiveness of the car, then I expected a victory. I’m delighted with the performance of the Fiesta RS WRC, but knowing how competitive we were only makes the result more frustrating. However, we will dig deep, put this rally behind us and focus on the next round in Argentina,” he said.

News from other Ford teams
Adapta World Rally Team’s Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson retained second, despite an engine misfire this morning. M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Evgeny Novikov / Denis Giraudet were third, despite a broken throttle cable three stages from the end. Novikov became the first Russian to score a WRC podium. Czech Ford National Team’s Martin Prokop / Zdenek Hruza were sixth after being edged out of fifth in the final stage. M-Sport Ford’s Dennis Kuipers / Robin Buysmans were seventh and Jari Ketomaa / Mika Stenberg made it six Fiesta RS WRCs on the leaderboard in 10th. Ott Tänak / Kuldar Sikk finished 15th after a difficult weekend, which ended with damage to the rear suspension and a brake disc this morning.

Next round
Round five takes Ford World Rally Team to South America for the second long-haul event of the season. The all-gravel Rally Argentina is based in Villa Carlos Paz on 26 - 29 April.

Final positions
1. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen FIN Citroen DS3 4hr 19min 24.3sec
2. M Østberg/J Andersson NOR Ford Fiesta RS 4hr 21min 16.1sec
3. E Novikov/D Giraudet RUS Ford Fiesta RS 4hr 22min 49.3sec
4. P Solberg/C Patterson NOR Ford Fiesta RS 4hr 23min 11.7sec
5. N Al Attiyah/G Bernacchini QAT Citroen DS3 4hr 27min 21.9sec
6. M Prokop/Z Hruza CZE Ford Fiesta RS 4hr 27min 25.3sec
7. D Kuipers/R Buysmans NED Ford Fiesta RS 4hr 28min 03.4sec
8. S Ogier/J Ingrassia FRA Skoda Fabia S2000 4hr 28min 25.1sec
9. T Neuville/N Gilsoul BEL Citroen DS3 4hr 29min 54.0sec
10 J Ketomaa/M Stenberg FIN Ford Fiesta RS 4hr 31min 08.9sec

1. M Hirvonen 75pts
2. S Loeb 66pts
3. P Solberg 59pts
4. M Østberg 46pts
5. E Novikov 36pts
6. J-M Latvala 28pts

1. Citroen Total WRT 133pts
2. Ford WRT 91pts
3. M-Sport Ford WRT 60pts
4. Qatar WRT 28pts
5. Mini WRT 26pts
6. Citroen Junior WRT 16pts

Stage Times
Stage 17: 1. Latvala 12min 01.2sec; 2. P Solberg + 19.6; 3. Sordo + 21.7; 4. Tänak + 26.6; 5. Neuville + 30.9. 6. Hirvonen + 38.3.
Overall: 1. Hirvonen 3hr 12min 13.1sec; 2. Østberg + 1:14.7; 3. Novikov + 1:54.1; 4. P Solberg + 6:07.8; 5. Al Attiyah + 6:32.8; 6. Prokop + 7:13.4; 18. Latvala + 21:48.7.

Stage 18: 1. Latvala 22min 48.0sec; 2. P Solberg + 10.2; 3. Neuville + 14.7; 4. Sordo + 30.0; 5. Hirvonen + 54.9; 6. Sandell + 1:00.2
Overall: 1. Hirvonen 3hr 35min 56.0sec; 2. Østberg + 1:22.6; 3. Novikov + 2:18.0; 4. P Solberg + 5:23.1; 5. Al Attiyah + 7:12.0; 6. Prokop + 7:46.8; 17. Latvala + 20:53.8.

Stage 19: 1. P Solberg 3min 09.2sec; 2. Sordo + 0.1; 3. Latvala + 1.7; 4. Hirvonen + 4.0; 5. Ketomaa + 5.9; 6. Sandell + 6.3
Overall: 1. Hirvonen 3hr 39min 09.2sec; 2. Østberg + 1:40.1; 3. Novikov + 2:26.4; 4. P Solberg + 5:19.1; 5. Al Attiyah + 7:15.9; 6. Prokop + 7:54.1; 17. Latvala + 20:51.5.

Stage 20: 1. P Solberg 12min 05.2sec; 2. Latvala + 8.0; 3. Neuville + 8.4; 4. Sordo + 9.4; 5. Hirvonen + 19.1; 6. Østberg + 22.2.
Overall: 1. Hirvonen 3hr 51min 33.5sec; 2. Østberg + 1:43.2; 3. Novikov + 2:49.3; 4. P Solberg + 5:00.0; 5. Al Attiyah + 7:26.9; 6. Prokop + 8:09.0; 17. Latvala + 20:40.4.

Stage 21: 1. Latvala 22min 54.1sec; 2. P Solberg + 23.4; 3. Neuville + 1:03.5; 4. Ketomaa + 1:10.7; 5. Prokop + 1:17.0; 6. Hirvonen + 1:17.2.
Overall: 1. Hirvonen 4hr 15min 44.8sec; 2. Østberg + 1:58.6; 3. Novikov + 3:32.0; 4. P Solberg + 4:06.2; 5. Prokop + 8:08.8; 6. Al Attiyah + 8:15.2; 14. Latvala + 19:23.2.

Stage 22: 1. Sordo 3min 10.4sec; 2. Latvala + 0.2; 3. Tänak + 2.0; 4. Ketomaa + 8.8; 5. P Solberg + 10.2; 6. Al Attiyah + 11.5.
Overall: 1. Hirvonen 4hr 19min 24.3sec; 2. Østberg + 1:51.8; 3. Novikov + 3:25.0; 4. P Solberg + 3:47.4; 5. Al Attiyah + 7:57.6; 6. Prokop + 8:01.0; 14. Latvala + 18:54.4
12-04-01 Sandell snurrade och bröt
Patrik Sandell slog av ett hjul och tvingades bryta Rally Portugal när två sträckor återstod. Det blev slutet på ett extremt tufft och märkligt rally för den svenske MINI-föraren.

Just innan starten på SS20 kom regnet tillbaka. Det skulle visa sig förödande för svensken som körde på hårda däck vilka genast blev för hala för underlaget. Det höll 1,5 kilometer in på sträckan.
- Vi kom för fort in i en snabb högerböj som nöp lite, och då hade vi inget fäste alls så det styrde absolut ingenting. Vi åkte av, slog i en jordvall och gjorde en piruett eller två innan vi landade bredvid vägen, berättar Patrik Sandell som tävlar för Sweden World Rally Team.

När bilen väl slutat snurra kunde han och co-drivern Maria Andersson konstatera att de slagit av höger bakhjul och att rallyt var över för deras del. Ett rally där vädret har varit det stora samtalsämnet. Ösregn och dimma gjorde de portugisiska vägarna bitvis okörbara och flera sträckor ströks under fredagen.

Patrik och Maria var länge ett av få ekipage som lyckades hålla sig undan problem i leran och låg på en fin fjärdeplats efter halva rallyt. Men en trasig fjädring på SS14 lördag eftermiddag petade ner dem till en sjuttondeplats inför söndagens avslutning. De körde upp sig till en femtonde plats innan avåkningen satte punkt för deras rally en gång för alla.
- Det var en konstig helg från början till slut. Har aldrig upplevt så svåra förhållanden, bitvis har det varit så dåliga vägar att det knappt går att beskriva. Och så avslutas det så här snöpligt, säger Patrik Sandell.

Vinnare av Vodafone Rally de Portugal blev finländaren Mikko Hirvonen före norrmannen Mads Östberg och ryssen Evgeny Novikov.
12-04-01 Patrik Sandell åkte av vägen i Rally Portugal
Patrik Sandell och Maria Andersson har tvingats bryta Rally Portugal idag:
- "Vi har åkt av vägen. Det hände 1,5 km in på näst sista sträckan" rapporterar Patrik "V Det hade jus tbörjat regna och var halt. Vi gled ut i en snabb sväng och slog i en jordvall. Både jag och Maria är helt ok, men vi kan inte fortsätta rallyt. Ett snöpligt slut på en konstig helg" avslutar han.
12-04-01 Elsewhere, Midday quotes Rally Portugal day 4
Mads Østberg, Adapta World Rally Team, Ford Fiesta RS WRC (3rd)
“We had an engine problem towards the end of the long stage [SS18] and we had to do the last stage [SS19] on three cylinders. Ok, we are still here with a comfortable gap to Evgeny [Novikov], but anything can happen.

"We are not 100 per cent sure what the problem is. We had a misfire on the second stage [SS18] and had to go to road mode. After one or two kilometres it started to run clearly again so we continued in stage mode. But then towards the end it started again [about 1 km from the end].

“It is not so good, but hopefully it is something we can fix. It comes and goes so we don’t think it is something wrong with the engine itself, more likely a problem with the electronics so we should be able to get it fixed in service.”

Martin Prokop, Ford Fiesta RS WRC (5th)
“This morning was not so good because we chose the hard tyres. The stages were very slippery and we had only six of the harder tyre so we lost a lot of time to Dennis [Kuipers]. That was not the plan.

“We’ll have to speed up over the afternoon loop and hopefully we can retain our fifth place.”

Jari Ketomaa, Ford Fiesta RS WRC (12th)
“We had no problems this morning. The car is running on full cylinders and we’ve had no issues with the brakes. This afternoon, we’ve just got to enjoy the time in the car and then look forward to the next event.”

Daniel Oliveira, Brazil World Rally Team, Ford Fiesta RS WRC (13th)
“We had a nice run over the morning loop. We picked up a puncture on the second stage [SS18], but it was no problem. Our time was a little bit better this morning than it was yesterday, so I’m happy.

“Now, it is just about getting to the finish. The car is feeling good and if we can finish in the top 15 it will be a good result for us.”

Maciek Oleksowicz, Ford Fiesta S2000 (19th)
“This morning was a nice loop. The second stage [SS18] is quite slippery and we are driving quite safely. It is a real pity that Yazeed [Al-Rahji] had the problem, but for us it is good. We have advanced again to second position which will be a fantastic result for us.

“It looks as though we have no chance of catching Hayden [Paddon] – he is much faster than us. So we are just concentrating on keeping our` position which I am really happy with.”

Yazeed Al-Rajhi, Ford Fiesta RRC (DNF)
“In the second stage today [SS18], the cross-member broke going into a slow left-hand corner. It was very bumpy, but I think it [the cross-member] may have been cracked before – maybe when I hit the water splash on Day 2 – because we didn’t hit anything. I tried to drive another five kilometers or so, but then the wheel came off completely and our event was over.

“Hopefully we can show the same pace in Greece as we have this weekend. We don’t have anything to loose in Greece so we can push to see where our pace is. Then in New Zealand we can take it more cautiously and make sure we get some points on the board.”
12-04-01 M-Sport Ford WRT, Midday quotes Rally Portugal day 4
Evgeny Novikov (3rd) said:
“Everything was ok this morning. We are just driving within our limits and trying to maintain our podium position.

“I have been waiting for a result like this for such a long time. If we can carry on the way we are and keep this place, I will be extremely happy! It will be a very good achievement for us.

“Denis [Giraudet] is a very good co-driver, he tells me to concentrate more on my driving skills and he has very good experience of the roads so he can tell me where to push and where not to push. He has helped me a lot.”

Dennis Kuipers (6th) said:
“This morning was quite good. It was a little slippery on the first stage [SS17], but we made a good tyres choice for this morning. The long stage [SS18] is very difficult but I have a good feeling in the car.

“We’ll keep pushing over the second loop to see if we can catch Martin [Prokop]. But we have a long afternoon ahead of us so we shall have to see.”

Ott Tänak (14th) said:
“The first stage [SS17] was ok. But about 25 kilometers into the second one [SS18], we touched something with the rear of the car and broke the toe-link bracket. After this the brake disc was damaged too so it wasn’t that easy to get the car back.

“We don’t know at the moment exactly what the weather will do this afternoon, but hopefully we can get the car fixed and be in a good position for the Power Stage.”
12-03-31 Elsewhere, end of day quotes Rally Portugal day 3
Mads Østberg, Adapta World Rally Team, Ford Fiesta RS WRC (2nd)
“This had been a problem free rally for us which seems to be paying off quite well. I am very happy with the position we are in at the moment. Ok, there is still a very long day to go tomorrow and anything can happen, but I feel like we were in control today with no big risks and no big dramas.
“I’m happy with the day and hopefully we can do the same tomorrow.”

Martin Prokop, Ford Fiesta RS WRC (6th)
“The last few stages were not so good because we made the wrong tyre choice. We went with soft tyres and we lost grip almost immediately. We lost the chance to fight with Nasser [Al-Attiyah] as a result which was really disappointing. But ok, tomorrow is still on, but I don’t want to risk this position which would be a very good result for us.”

Jari Ketomaa, Ford Fiesta RS WRC (10th)
“This afternoon was very bad. We lost the rear break-disc completely from the car so we didn’t have any brakes for the last two stages. Tomorrow we will just try to get a good rhythm and enjoy the rally.”

Daniel Oliveira, Brazil World Rally Team, Ford Fiesta RS WRC (14th)
“Today was ok. We damaged the front suspension but we got to the end of the day so that is ok. For tomorrow, if we can get into the top 15 I think that would be a great result for our first event in the car.”

Yazeed Al Rajhi, Ford Fiesta RRC (15th)
“The stages have been nice but we made the wrong choice with the soft tyre. I tried to slow down to make sure we had no punctures. Tomorrow I will take it very cautiously and make sure we finish the rally in this strong position.”

Maciek Oleksowicz, Ford Fiesta S2000 (19th)
“Today has been good. It was dry, which we were not expecting, so we made the wrong choice with the soft tyres. We made one small mistake when we became stuck on the side of the road on SS13 and losing about 30 seconds. But during the rally the car has been working well and we will go with harder springs if it is going to be dry again tomorrow.”
12-03-31 Novikov impresses to maintain podium position
M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Evgeny Novikov continued to impress on the third day of competition at the Vodafone Rally de Portugal today. Despite incurring problems, the Russian maintained his podium position and is on target for his best ever WRC result. Similarly, Dennis Kuipers is on course for a good haul of points on this the Dutchman’s first time in the Ford Fiesta RS WRC since November last year.

Elsewhere, despite incurring further misfortunes, Ott Tänak set some strong times to climb from 17th to 13th in the overall standings.

Returning to last year’s route, the crews tackled the longest day of competition with 148.16 kilometres over two loops of three stages. Novikov’s maturity shone through over the opening stage. Suffering from a recurring issue with a misfiring engine, the Russian focussed on maintaining his podium position. Despite losing out to a charging Mads Østberg, Novikov conserved his tyres and, with limited knowledge of the stages, vowed only to push if the conditions worsened.

Continuing their strong run in spite of their problems, Novikov and co-driver Denis Giraudet set a string of top-ten times in their Ford Fiesta RS WRC to remain on course for their best ever World Rally Championship [WRC] result.

Another strong performance from Kuipers saw the Dutchman set for a strong haul of points on his first WRC event of 2012. Taking an impressive 15.4 seconds out of fellow countryman Peter Van Merksteijn over the opening stage (SS11), Kuipers closed the gap to seventh to just 34.9 seconds.

Continuing his composed drive, Kuipers set more strong times over the morning loop. Going well back behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC, the Dutchman reigned in Van Merksteijn to claim seventh place going into the afternoon’s loop.

Elsewhere however, Tänak and co-driver Kuldar Sikk’s misfortunes continued into Day 3 as the Estonian pairing were forced to leave service late following a problem with the prop-shaft.

Colliding with a rock five kilometres into the first test, the 24-year-old damaged the sumpguard of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC. With the sumpguard hitting the road and making his Fiesta RS WRC an extremely nervy customer, Tänak took a steady approach over the remaining tests so as not to risk any further damage to the car. Despite his problems, the 24-year-old’s talent shone through with a string of top-ten times including the fourth fastest time over SS13.

Returning to the stages for the afternoon loop, Novikov consolidated his podium position over the final tests. Setting consistent top-ten times, the ALM Russia supported driver proved himself to be one of the most exciting young drivers in the field with maturity and composure as well as his raw speed behind the wheel.

Vowing to push if the heavens open tomorrow, the young Russian will be one to watch with Østberg just 29.3 seconds adrift in second.

Despite losing out to factory Ford driver, Peter Solberg on the opening stage of the afternoon (SS14), Kuipers kept his composure and regained the place when Patrik Sandell’s rally came to an end on the following stage (SS15).

With a good feeling in the car and an ever improving relationship with new-for-2012 co-driver Robin Buysmans, Kuipers is on target to score a good haul of points on his opening round of the season.

Elsewhere, despite catching an ailing [Dani] Sordo in the stage, Tänak set the fourth fastest time over SS14 – 4.2 seconds clear of Østberg – to confirm how his experience of Rally de Portugal is growing.

Evgeny Novikov (3rd) said:
“I was trying to push over the afternoon loop but it has been quite difficult. We made a few small mistakes but we did not lose so much time, maybe a maximum of 10 seconds.

"I don’t know the stages so we are just trying to do our best. Tomorrow we will have to see what the weather will be like. If we have rain of course I will push, but if it is dry I will maintain my speed and just try to finish the rally.”

Dennis Kuipers (7th) said:
“This afternoon was very good – it was dry at least! We had a really good feeling with the car and we improved a lot with our times this afternoon so we feel really confident.

“We won’t make so many changes for tomorrow. Just keep the rhythm and try to put some pressure on those in front.”

Ott Tänak (13th) said:
“The first two stages this afternoon were quite ok. There was a problem with [Dani] Sordo on the first one [SS14] and we had to slow right down, but most of the afternoon loop was good. Somehow we were struggling again on the last one [SS16]. For some reason I can’t seem to find a good balance on that stage.

“We will try and do a few small things in service, but mostly we will keep the set-up the same and see how we go tomorrow.”
12-03-31 More twists and turns for Araújo at Rally de Portugal
For the second year in a row the Vascão stage caused heartache for WRC Team MINI Portugal's No.1 driver Armindo Araújo as he retired for the day after breaking a suspension arm on his MINI John Cooper Works WRC. The Portuguese driver as always flanked by his experienced co-driver Miguel Ramalho will restart under Rally 2 regulations hoping to wow the crowds on the final day of Rally de Portugal.

After a wrong set-up choice, Araújo had a difficult run through the morning loop of the day. The weather conditions having changed dramatically since yesterday, Araújo's MINI was too soft to face the drier gravel roads of the third day of Rally de Portugal. Struggling to find a good rhythm and losing confidence, the national hero drove through the stages trying to do the best he could without making mistakes.

Back to the WRC Team MINI Portugal service area and a quick set-up change on his MINI left the Portuguese driver determined for a better run in the afternoon. The second loop of stages started on a high, with Araújo improving his pace on the Almodovar stage by over 30 seconds. However, his run was thwarted when disaster struck 13km into SS15 as a front-right impact broke the suspension arm on the same side forcing him to retire for the day.

Armindo Araújo : "We hit the front-right wheel of our MINI 13km into SS15 and we broke a suspension arm. Of course it's disappointing because we were starting to get our confidence back and our pace was improving but that is rally. This morning was really tough - the conditions changed a lot compared to yesterday, it was drier than I expected and the grip was better. Our MINI's set-up was too soft and we couldn't find a good rhythm so we lost some time - after midday service things were improving but then we had to stop on the same stage as last year. We'll restart tomorrow and do our best to get to the finish of our home event."

The fourth and final day of Rally de Portugal gets underway for WRC Team MINI Portugal tomorrow at 06:55 when the crew leave the Algarve Stadium to head north-west of Faro to run six competitive stages - two loops of three - covering a total of 115.08km.
12-03-31 Resurgent Solberg charges up to fourth in Rally de Portugal
Ford World Rally Team drivers Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson won four consecutive speed tests today during a tremendous recovery that powered them back up the Rally de Portugal leaderboard. They climbed from 13th to fourth during the third leg in their Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Car, before a power steering problem during the final special stage dropped them back to fifth.

Team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila lie 18th in their Fiesta RS WRC. The Finns’ attempts to climb the order were derailed by a fuel pressure problem early this afternoon which cost 12 minutes.

Today’s action in this fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship comprised two identical loops of three gravel stages, covering 148.16km north of the Algarve holiday resort of Faro. Despite more overnight rain, the roads were in better condition than yesterday. The morning tests were mainly damp and muddy but a strong breeze and patchy sunshine ensured they were fully dry this afternoon.

Both Solberg and Latvala, who both restarted under Rally 2 regulations after retiring yesterday, opted for Michelin’s wet weather, soft compound Latitude Cross tyres this morning. They were not ideal in the rapidly drying opening stage, but came into their own in the following two tests, when the roads were wetter. Solberg began his winning run by setting fastest time in both stages to climb to ninth.

With his car now fitted with harder rubber, the 37-year-old Norwegian won the opening two afternoon stages to leap to fourth. His run of fastest times was only interrupted by a power steering problem during the final test, which cost 60sec and dropped him to fifth. However, he is just 16.4sec behind Nasser Al-Attiyah in fourth.

“I took a massive amount of time back,” said Solberg. “The car’s pace was incredible. I found the magic set-up and really enjoyed driving it. At the start of the day the team was aiming for fifth tonight, but I was aiming for fourth. I was fourth, but then I slipped back to fifth – so perhaps the team was correct all along!

“The final stage was really hard on my hands and arms. After driving the whole way with no power steering, my hands are blistered and my arms ache, and it shows how important good fitness is. I want to score as many championship points as I can. As we’ve seen already in this rally, a lot can still happen over the final 115km and I haven’t ruled out a podium finish yet,” added Solberg.

Latvala restarted in 16th with bigger time penalties than his team-mate following his retirement. He drove cautiously through the morning, moving up a place as he closed the large time gaps to those in front. However, his hopes of breaking back into the top 10 ended on the afternoon’s opening stage when he dropped a further 12 minutes after his car stopped with a fuel pressure problem.

“Halfway through the stage the engine stopped on an uphill section,” said Latvala. “We discovered there was no fuel pressure and changed a lot of parts, including the ECU and spark plugs. Finally it restarted and we completed the stage. It stopped again in a river crossing in the next test. I thought it was the same problem, but it seems the engine inhaled some water and it restarted after 20 sec.

“When things go wrong for me on a rally, they seem to go really wrong. It’s frustrating because I had a chance of climbing into the top 10 again, but that’s gone now. Tomorrow I will focus on trying to score bonus points in the Power Stage and manufacturer points for the team,” he said.

Ford World Rally Team director Malcolm Wilson remained confident of a solid result. “I believe Petter can regain fourth tomorrow. He was fantastic today, winning four of the six stages. Jari-Matti did well to make temporary repairs to ensure he could complete all the stages and return to service. Both cars have been fully repaired for tomorrow and despite everything, we are on course for strong manufacturers’ points,” he said.

News from other Ford teams
Adapta World Rally Team’s Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson climbed from third to second in the opening stage and built a 29.3sec advantage over M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Evgeny Novikov / Denis Giraudet. Both drivers overcame an engine misfire this morning. Czech Ford National Team’s Martin Prokop / Zdenek Hruza lie sixth despite a wrong tyre choice this afternoon. They are just one place ahead of the similar Fiesta RS WRC of M-Sport Ford’s Dennis Kuipers / Robin Buysmans. Jari Ketomaa / Mika Stenberg round off the top 10, despite losing several minutes this afternoon with no rear brakes. Ott Tänak / Kuldar Sikk climbed to 13th, the Estonians surviving a brush with a rock in the opening stage, which damaged their car’s sump guard.

Tomorrow’s Route
The fourth and final leg is based in the hills north-west of Faro and covers 115.08km of competition. Drivers leave the Algarve Stadium at 06.55 for two identical loops of three special stages, divided by a return to the stadium for service. The final 5.08km Sambro test forms the live TV Power Stage, with bonus points on offer to the fastest three drivers. The rally finishes at the stadium at 15.30.

Leaderboard after Day 3
1. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen FIN Citroen DS3 2hr 59min 33.6sec
2. M Østberg/J Andersson NOR Ford Fiesta RS 3hr 00min 45.5sec
3. E Novikov/D Giraudet RUS Ford Fiesta RS 3hr 01min 14.8sec
4. N Al Attiyah/G Bernacchini QAT Citroen DS3 3hr 05min 43.7sec
5. P Solberg/C Patterson NOR Ford Fiesta RS 3hr 06min 00.1sec
6. M Prokop/Z Hruza CZE Ford Fiesta RS 3hr 06min 21.1sec
7. D Kuipers/R Buysmans NED Ford Fiesta RS 3hr 07min 03.4sec
8. S Ogier/J Ingrassia FRA Skoda Fabia S2000 3hr 07min 33.8sec
9. P Van Merksteijn/E Chevaillier NED Citroen DS3 3hr 08min 12.3sec
10 J Ketomaa/M Stenberg FIN Ford Fiesta RS 3hr 11min 10.3sec

Stage Times
Stage 11: 1. Sordo 16min 30.8sec; 2. Latvala + 8.1; 3. P Solberg + 8.5; 4. Østberg + 18.8; 5. Hirvonen + 18.9; 6. Tänak + 25.0.
Overall: 1. Hirvonen 1hr 36min 51.4sec; 2. Østberg + 41.7; 3. Novikov + 53.1; 4. Sandell + 3:27.5; 5. Prokop + 3:59.0; 6. Al Attiyah + 4:18.5; 13. P Solberg + 7:25.5; 16. Latvala + 11:13.8.

Stage 12: 1. P Solberg 17min 03.5sec; 2. Sordo + 4.4; 3. Latvala + 9.1; 4. Tänak + 23.4; 5. Hirvonen + 26.3; 6. Østberg + 27.6.
Overall: 1. Hirvonen 1hr 54min 21.2sec; 2. Østberg + 43.0; 3. Novikov + 1:06.8; 4. Sandell + 3:55.8; 5. Prokop + 4:37.6; 6. Al Attiyah + 4:47.2; 11. P Solberg + 6:59.2; 15. Latvala + 10:56.6.

Stage 13: 1. P Solberg 15min 49.7sec; 2. Sordo + 9.1; 3. Latvala + 14.4; 4. Neuville + 17.6; 5. Hirvonen + 27.7; 6. Novikov + 30.4.
Overall: 1. Hirvonen 2hr 10min 38.6sec; 2. Østberg + 47.3; 3. Novikov + 1:09.5; 4. Sandell + 4:08.8; 5. Prokop + 5:02.3; 6. Al Attiyah + 5:02.5; 9. P Solberg + 6:31.5; 15. Latvala + 10:43.3.

Stage 14: 1. P Solberg 16min 06.9sec; 2. Neuville + 17.5; 3. Hirvonen + 18.9; 4. Tänak + 19.5; 5. Østberg + 23.7; 6. Novikov + 28.1; 36. Latvala + 12:25.7.
Overall: 1. Hirvonen 2hr 27min 04.4sec; 2. Østberg + 52.1; 3. Novikov + 1:18.7; 4. Al Attiyah + 5:36.4; 5. Prokop + 5:38.6; 6. P Solberg + 6:12.6; 19. Latvala + 22:50.1.

Stage 15: 1. P Solberg 16min 16.5sec; 2. Sordo + 4.5; 3. Tänak + 15.6; 4. Neuville + 16.6; 5. Latvala + 22.0; 6. Hirvonen + 25.3.
Overall: 1. Hirvonen 2hr 43min 46.2sec; 2. Østberg + 1:00.4; 3. Novikov + 1:36.5; 4. P Solberg + 5:47.3; 5. Al Attiyah + 5:53.7; 6. Prokop + 6:17.5; 18. Latvala + 22:46.8.

Stage 16: 1. Sordo 15min 25.0sec; 2. Latvala + 2.6; 3. Neuville + 7.0; 4. Tänak + 18.6; 5. Hirvonen + 22.4. 6. Novikov + 27.1; 14. P Solberg + 1:01.6.
Overall: 1. Hirvonen 2hr 59min 33.6sec; 2. Østberg + 1:11.9; 3. Novikov + 1:41.2; 4. Al Attiyah + 6:10.1; 5. P Solberg + 6:26.5; 6. Prokop + 6:47.5; 18. Latvala + 22:27.0.
12-03-31 Fischer flies to victory in FIA WRC Academy
As some of the of the world’s most talented young talents did battle for the spoils in the inaugural round of the 2012 FIA WRC Academy at the Vodafone Rally de Portugal this weekend, there was sure to be some excitement. Rising to the challenge Alastair Fisher (23) took the victory ahead of Brendan Reeves (23) and Pontus Tidemand (21).

Supported by Ford Racing in Europe and with control tyres from Pirelli, the WRC Academy embarked on some of the most challenging conditions the World Rally Championship (WRC) has seen for decades. Thrown in at the deep end, the WRC Academy crews were faced with an exceptionally difficult first event. Having to cope with persistent heavy rain, thick fog, and treacherously slippery conditions, the quality of the 2012 competitors shone through with nine out of a possible 10 Ford Fiesta R2’s making it to the finish.

Returning to the popular Super Special at the Praça do Império on Thursday afternoon, first blood went to the Australia brother and sister pairing of Reeves and Rhianon Smyth. With just 2.1 seconds separating the top three, asphalt ace Jose Antonio Suárez (21) claimed second with Sweden’s Fredrik Åhlin (22) securing third overall. Privileged with opening the event, Portuguese driver João Silva (24) set the sixth fastest time, in front of this home crowd.

Thursday evening saw the crews embark upon their first real challenge – three back-to-back night stages north of the rally’s base in the Algarve. With three different stage winners over the three tests, the WRC Academy was fast becoming one of the most exciting battles in the field.

Securing the stage win on SS2 followed by two top-five times over the remaining loop, Åhlin leap-frogged Reeves for the lead – just 0.5 seconds ahead going into Day 2. SS3 saw Tidemand prove just what it is that makes him Sweden’s youngest ever national champion when he secured the stage win on his first venture to the Algarve – climbing from 10th to an incredible fourth overall in the standings. Contesting the final 11.1 km of the day, it was Fisher who came out on top to lie just 1.4 seconds adrift of Reeves.

Elsewhere however, there was heartache for John MacCrone (23) as the Scotsman suffered a heavy landing on SS2, damaging the radiator of his Fiesta R2 and was forced to restart under Rally 2. Nevertheless, with less than a minute separating the top six crews going into the second day of competition, the outcome remained impossible to predict.

Day 2, and as the weather played havoc on the stages around the Tavira municipality, organisers were forced to cancel SS7, SS8, SS9 and SS10 for the WRC Academy crews. Despite the treacherous conditions, nine crews made it to service – highlighting the quality of this year’s field given the number of more experienced drivers who fell foul of the conditions.

Having to contend with stages that better resembled Wales Rally GB than the Algarve, rally leader Åhlin was caught out by the tricky conditions on SS5. The Swede went too deep into a second gear left-hander, damaging the wishbone and driveshaft of his Fiesta R2 and having to restart under Rally 2 regulations on the final day of competition.

It was Fisher’s experience which paid dividends. Securing both stage victories, the Northern Irishman was propelled into the lead of the event with over a minute advantage to Reeves in second.

Elsewhere on Day 2, there was heartache for Elfyn Evans (23) – relegated to the back of the field as poor visibility caused him to go off the road on a steep downhill section. Becoming lodged in a ditch and unable to get the car back on the road, the Welshman put his initiative to good use, driving his Fiesta down the bank and building a ‘bridge’ to get back on the stage. Despite losing some 14 minutes, Evans restarted on the last day of competition.

Embarking on the final day of competitive stages, the WRC Academy crews faced three stages through the hills north of Faro. With the top three keen to preserve their hard earned positions over the remaining tests, Åhlin put in a charge to secure the stage win on SS11 and SS13 – minimising yesterday’s upset with another two points.

SS12 went to Reeves, but it was not enough to catch Fisher out in front. Excelling in the difficult conditions, the Northern Irishman’s times were never out of the top five as he flew to victory in the first round of the 2012 FIA WRC Academy Cup. Setting some blistering times in the dry conditions, Reeves claimed second overall with Tidemand excelling – despite incurring a 10 second penalty when a fuel issue saw him leave the last service a minute behind schedule – to claim the final podium position on his first venture to the Portuguese stages.

Returning for his second season in the FIA WRC Academy, Timo Van der Marel (22) brought his Fiesta R2 home in fourth ahead of Suárez who, following an accident in the Spanish Championship last week, had to compete with a new co-driver for the first time. Recovering well, Åhlin and Evans claimed sixth and seventh respectively, ahead of local-boy Silva. Following his heavy impact on Day 1, MacCrone did well to bring his Fiesta R2 to the finish in ninth place.

Elsewhere there was heartache for Chris Duplessis (24). Having been going strongly in fifth, the charismatic American damaged the rear of his Fiesta on SS12. Losing over 20 minutes and despite his best efforts and ingenuity to find a temporary fix, the youngster ran out of time and was regrettably unable to be classified as a finisher in the rally.

Battling through the treacherous conditions, the WRC Academy crews impressed the field on their first event. Next up in the Cup, competitors’ will be eager to excel once more as they contest the notoriously rough stages of the Acropolis Rally.

103. Alastair Fisher (1st) said:
“We are very happy to take the first win of the season. We have never seen anything like the stages yesterday but we seemed to cope really well in the conditions and everything seemed to work well.

“We focused on being smooth and consistent and the car has been perfect, even in the rough stages. We drove with a bit too much caution on the first stage today [SS11] and Brendan [Reeves] took 15 seconds out of us, so we made sure we stayed on his pace for the next two stages [SS12 and SS13]. We have worked very hard over the winter so it is nice to get a good solid start to the season and points on the board.”

106. Brendan Reeves (2nd) said:
“It feels so good to get this result. The conditions have been tough and Alastair [Fisher] hasn’t made it an easy weekend for us. But with two stage wins and second overall we couldn’t be happier.

“We took it a bit easier yesterday in the wet but went for it today. The stages had a lot more grip and we felt very comfortable in the car so we decided to push. We wanted to keep the pressure on Alastair but he drove really well all weekend.

“It was a great rally for us and we couldn’t be on the podium with better people! We have had a lot of support to allow us to be here and it is all thanks to them. We now need to focus on getting more support to keep the momentum going for the rest of the season.”

105. Pontus Tidemand (3rd) said:
“We had an issue with the fuel pressure this morning so we are lucky to be here. I am happy with our first weekend in the car, it is the first time I have driven the [Ford] Fiesta R2 so it is good to get a strong result and some good points.

“The stages were much nicer today but we are not pushing the car to the limit yet.”

107. Timo van der Marel (4th) said:
“Today was good. We pushed a bit on the first stage [SS11] to stay ahead of Jose [Suárez], but he had some problems, so after that it was just a matter of getting to the finish. The conditions were a lot better today, I didn’t expect it to be this good! We had no problems and we made it to the end so I am happy.”

102. Jose Suárez (5th) said:
“We lost third gear on the first stage this morning [SS11], so it was not possible to fight with Timo [Van der Marel] for fourth position. But we are still happy with our result and to score some good points. This is a much better start than what we had last year.”

114. Fredrik Åhlin (6h) said:
“Our plan went well today – we kept our focus and knew what we could do with the car. The first stage [SS11] went well and we won this by a good margin. But unfortunately we lost five or 10 seconds in the next stage [SS12], so our plan to win all three stages did not happen.

“We won the final stage [SS13] so it is good to get the bonus points. To have restarted under Rally 2 yesterday but still take 11 points away from the rally –and fifth in the Championship standings – was much better than I thought when we were standing in the mud on SS6 yesterday!”

109. Elfyn Evans (7th) said:
“It was a difficult day, we didn’t settle into the rhythm as I would have liked so we just concentrated on getting around cleanly rather than forcing it and making a mistake.

“There wasn’t an a lot we could gain without taking risks for a stage win so we just kept it clean and made it to the finish. We have definitely learnt a lot about the Championship this weekend. The pace is very quick, so even though it is a long rally, you still have to push all the time.”

111. Joao Silva (8th) said:
“Today was much better for us. We changed the set up and I was much more confident. We had an issue with the throttle calibration this morning, but fixed this and I tried to improve my pace. I am happy with the times I made and my progress. I am feeling much more comfortable in the car, so hopefully we can keep moving forward as the series progresses.”

108. John MacCrone (9th) said
“We had a problem with the intercom cutting out every time we went around right hand corners so my co-driver Stuart [Loudon] was having to point and use hand signals which was quite interesting!

“We got into a rhythm on the last two stages [SS12 & SS13] and everything felt more natural. For me it is really about getting more seat time, I really want to go back out there and do more! We made a mistake on the first gravel stage of the rally [SS2], which was a shame, but once we got into it today I felt good and the car was spot on. We will try to get some more time in a car in between events.”

101. Chris Duplessis (DNF) said:
“We slid a little wide on a right-hander and hit a bank, bending the axle pretty badly. We managed to crawl through the next stage but the wheel later broke and we just ran out of time. You don’t want to ever end a rally like this but it was a good experience. I will keep practising my notes back in the USA and am looking forward to the next one.”

Fisher 2:32:02.9
Reeves +40.3
Tidemand +1:55.7
Van der Marel +5:05.0
Suárez +7:34.5
Åhlin +10:16.7
Evans +15:55.3
Silva +17:14.8
MacCrone +19:59
Duplessis DNF

Fisher 25pts + 3 stage wins = 28pts
Reeves 18pts + 2 stage wins = 20pts
Tidemand 15pts + 1 stage win = 16pts
Van Der Marel = 12pts
Åhlin 8pts + 3 stage wins = 11pts
Suárez = 10pts
Evans = 6pts
Silva = 4pts
MacCrone = 2pts
Duplessis = DNF


12-03-31 Pontus Tidemand trea i premiären av Junior-VM i rally efter drama vid slutmålet
2012-års premiär av Junior-VM som officiellt heter WRC Academy gick i mål under lördagseftermiddagen i Faro vid Algarve-kusten i Portugal. På plats fanns den 21-åriga landslagsföraren i rally Pontus Tidemand som tillsammans med kartläsaren Stig-Rune Skjaermoen slutade på en tredjeplats efter en mycket bra genomförd tävling.

Första deltävlingen av sex stycken i WRC Academy var Rally Portugal startade redan på torsdagen med en publiksträcka i Lissabon och ytterligare tre stycken sträckor i mörker på grus. Publiksträckan som kördes på gatorna i Lissabon och lockade storpublik gick inte riktigt som Pontus ville.
- Jag gled ut lite i första svängen där det var kullersten och tappade lite tid men bestämde mig för att ta det lugnt och försöka och ta i lite när vi skulle köra grus-sträckorna på kvällen, berättar Pontus

När väl de tio WRC Academy-ekipagen, alla i likadana Ford Fiesta R2 kom ut på grussträckorna så visade Pontus att han är att räkna med i årets serie. Med en fjärde tid på andra sträckan och en sträckvinst och andra tid på de två andra sträckorna så placerade sig Pontus på en fjärdeplats i klassen efter första dagens sträckor.
- Det var en helt ny upplevelse att köra i mörker med damm på de här svåra vägarna men tyckte ändå att jag fick till det ganska bra på första sträckan. De sista två gick det riktigt bra och det var jättekul att ta min första sträckvinst i WRC Academy redan på min tredje sträcka, säger Tidemand

Under fredagen skulle det köras sex stycken sträckor uppe i bergen norr om Faro, men vädergudarna ville inte alls vara på rallyts sida utan regnet öste ner och med en massiv dimma skulle det bli en utmanade dag för rallyts deltagare. Pontus fortsatte i ett högt men jämnt tempo utan att ta några risker och hade en fjärde tid och andra tid på de två första sträckorna, men på transporten till sträcka sju så var vägen bortspolad och rallybilarna klarade inte komma vidare till sträckan.
- Det ösregnade, var bara lera på vägen och sikten var endast tio meter pga dimma. Jag har aldrig upplevt något liknande väder, men gällde bara att ta det lugnt och försöka komma runt och på transporten på väg till sträcka sju kom vi inte längre då det helt enkelt inte fanns nån väg att åka på, utan berättar Pontus

Arrangören tog ett snabbt beslut att först stryka sträcka sju och efter någon timme så blev det bestämt att alla sträckor som var kvar av dagen skulle strykas på grund av vädret.

På lördagen skulle de sista tre sträckorna köras och Pontus låg då på en stabil tredjeplats med 2,5 minut ner till fjärde och 24 sekunder upp till andra plats. Pontus bestämde sig att försöka ta in försprånget på andra placerade Australiensaren Brendan Reeves genom att öka tempot lite på dagens första sträcka.
- Jag tog i lite mera men kändes som jag tappade effekt på bilen och tänkte att jag får försöka att ta mig igenom detta rallyt. Nått som har varit målet hela tiden med denna tävlingen. Viktigaste av allt är få erfarenhet av VM-vägarna och komma i mål på en bra placering inför resten av serien, berättar Pontus

Pontus genomförde de sista sträckorna med ett jämnt tempo trots problemen med effekten på bilen men vid slutmålet så stoppade bilen och startade inte igen.
- Blev lite dramatik, men allt löste sig genom att vi helt enkelt fick skjuva bilen in i slutmålet. Vi fick ett tidstillägg på 10 sekunder men det spelade ingen roll för slutresultatet, berättar Pontus.

När väl bilen var i slutmålet så var det klart att Pontus klarade tredjeplatsen i WRC Academy, där Brendan Reeves tog hand om andra platsen och vinnare blev Allister Fisher.
- Jag är jättenöjd med tävlingen som helhet, visst hade jag velat vinna som alltid men detta är en bra start för mästerskapet och jag har fått mycket nyttig erfarenhet som jag kommer dra stor nytta av i framtiden, avslutar Tidemand
12-03-31 Sandell tvingades bryta för dagen
Patrik Sandell låg fyra i sin andra WRC-start och var på väg mot karriärens finaste placering. Då gick ett fjäderben sönder och svensken tvingades bryta för dagen.

Årets upplaga av Rally Portugal kommer att bil ihågkommet som ett av de tuffaste VM-rallyna genom tiderna. Mängder av toppförare föll bort redan under fredagen, då regn, dimma och lervälling bitvis gjorde vägarna nästan okörbara.

Sandell, som kör en Mini John Cooper Works WRC för Sweden World Rally Team, var en av få som lyckades hålla sig på vägen och han klättrade till en fjärdeplats.

Patrik och hans codriver Maria Andersson bevakade sin placering under lördagens tre första sträckor, samtidigt som de utökade försprånget till de som låg närmast bakom honom. Men på SS14, dagens fjärde sträcka, tog det roliga slut.
- Vi körde på som vi skulle utan att ladda. Men i en högerkurva så snurrade bilen plötsligt runt så vi stod åt fel håll. Vi förstod först inte vad som hade hänt utan vände runt och skulle börja åka igen, men då kände vi direkt att ena hjulet hade vikt sig under bilen, säger Patrik Sandell.

Det visade sig vara fjäderben höger fram som gått av och de tvingades kasta in handduken för dagen.

Patrik och Maria kommer att starta om imorgon, men får då 15 minuters tidstillägg och kommer inte längre att ha något med toppstriden att göra.
- Idag handlade det mest om att hålla placeringen. Men imorgon har vi inget att förlora längre så då blir det mer attack som gäller, avslutar Patrik Sandell.
12-03-31 Sandell tvingades bryta
Patrik Sandell och Maria Andersson står på SS14 med trasig fjädring höger fram: Tyvärr måste de bryta för dagen.
12-03-31 Elsewhere, Midday Quates, Rally Portugal Day 3
Mads Østberg, Adapta World Rally Team, Ford Fiesta RS WRC (2nd)
“This morning has been quite ok, no big dramas. We had an engine problem on the last stage this morning [SS13] so not so good there. But things all went to plan on the first two [SS11 and SS12]. We were taking time off Evgeny [Novikov] which was the intention. We hoped also to take some time off Mikko [Hirvonen] but we haven’t been able to do that.

“I think Mikko [Hirvonen] may be out of reach now unless we get a really bad change in the weather. Anything can happen. But at the moment, if the weather stays like this, we will concentrate on second position and just try to continue with a steady run.”

Martin Prokop, Ford Fiesta RS WRC (5th)
“This morning was quite good. But we have a problem with the engine so we don’t have so much power anymore. We were losing time so we are not able to fight with Nasser [Al-Attiyah] and Patrik [Sandell]. But I hope that in service we will fix it and then we can push this afternoon because there is still a long way to go in the rally.”

Jari Ketomaa, Ford Fiesta RS WRC (10th)
“This morning has been very difficult and I am not confident with the car when we are turning into the corners so I have been struggling quite a bit. We will make some changes in service now and hopefully we can get it improved for the afternoon loop.”

Daniel Oliveira, Brazil World Rally Team, Ford Fiesta RS WRC (14th)
“The conditions are much better today than they were yesterday, but on the second stage [SS12] we went through a water splash and the windscreen was misting up. It was completely white and we had to stop the car because I could not find the road!

“The car is ok but we did not have the correct tyres for these stages. We’ll see what we can do this afternoon.”

Yazeed Al Rajhi, Ford Fiesta RRC (17th)
“The stages are really nice. I’ve been driving carefully and not trying to push too much. I have a big buffer to second place now [Maciek Oleksowicz in the S-WRC] so I am taking it cautiously into each corner and trying not to make any mistakes.

“We will make some changes in service to the suspension because it is a little too soft at the moment. But apart from that, we will just continue the way we have been going.”

Maciek Oleksowicz, Ford Fiesta S2000 (19th)
“Today has definitely been much better. The weather is better and the stages have been ok. We are performing ok but for sure we should look to improve the set-up and driving style in the slow corners because the car does not want to turn in.

“Everything else is perfect. The car is good. The tyres are good. The co-driver is good. Everything is good!”
12-03-31 M Sport Ford WRT Midday Quotes Rally Portugal Day 3
Evgeny Novikov (3rd) said:
“On the first stage today [SS11] we nearly lost our diff-guard and we were lucky that we didn’t have any other issues otherwise we may have lost it altogether. But we’ll get everything fixed in service.

“We also had a problem with a misfire during all three stages this morning [SS11, SS12 and SS13]. It was quite a big problem and we lost a lot of time having to take it steady. But hopefully we will find out what the problem is and get it fixed for the afternoon.

“If we manage to get everything fixed in service, for sure I will be pushing for some good times again this afternoon.”

Dennis Kuipers (7th) said:
“The conditions were really good this morning. The first stage was quite dry so we went really well. I have a good feeling with the car at the moment. We are going really well and the tyres are working for us. Hopefully this afternoon we can push a little bit more.”

Ott Tänak (18th) said:
“The stages have been quite ok, but close to the start of the third one [five kilometres into SS11] one of the cars in front had pulled out quite a big rock. It was in the middle of the corner and we were going at quite a fast pace so we couldn’t avoid it. We hit it and it damaged the sumpguard. After this it [the sumpguard] was hitting the ground making it very difficult to drive.

“We managed to improve it [the issue with the sumpguard] a little bit for the later stages [SS12 and SS13] but it was still hitting the ground and making the car really nervous to drive.

“But our pace has been ok. For sure, conditions are better than yesterday but it is still a bit of a challenge. We’ll just carry on and try and get as much experience of the car and the stages as we can.”
12-03-31 Summering av Sandells dag 1 och 2 på film
Ett TV-team följer Patrik Sandell och Sweden World Rally Team under Portugals VM-rally.På YouTube-kanalen finns en summering i rörliga bilder från torsdags & fredagens tävlande.

Se filmen här: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YAqivNKc0oM&feature=youtu.be
12-03-30 Araújo edges towards Top 10 goal
Armindo Araújo and co-driver Miguel Ramalho powered through the field today at Rally de Portugal, making up some of the time they lost due to yesterday's misfortunes. The WRC Team MINI Portugal duo started the day with their heads clear and still focused on taking a Top 10 finish. They made fantastic progress climbing the leaderboard from 32rd to 11th overall, even clocking a third fastest time overall on SS6.

It was a drama filled morning today at Rally de Portugal. The already treacherous stages were made even more challenging by the heavy rains which made it pure endurance for both drivers and cars. Focused on finding a good rhythm from the very beginning, Araújo never lost concentration and successfully navigated his MINI John Cooper Works WRC through the morning loop and safely came back to the Motorsport Italia service after a trouble free morning.

Due to continuing adverse weather conditions, the organisers of Rally de Portugal decided to cancel Section 4 of the event for safety reasons. Going into the third competitive day of the event, Araújo lies in 11th place overall, only 6.6 seconds behind 10th placed Jari Ketomaa.

Armindo Araújo:
"This morning the conditions were quite challenging with fog, mud and rain on the stages. It was really slippery and very easy to make a mistake. We left this morning with the objective of making up some of the time we lost last night and everything went according to the plan. We found a good and consistent rhythm, we set some good times and we're now up to 11th place so very close to the Top 10, which is still our aim for Rally de Portugal. The rally is still very long and with these conditions anything can happen but I'm pretty confident at the moment. I'm very satisfied with my MINI and tomorrow we'll try to keep up the good work we did this morning. I'm very happy because I made my fans proud this morning, their support is essential to me and it's a huge boost of confidence."
12-03-30 Novikov on target for best ever finish in second
There were mixed fortunes for M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s rising stars on Day 2 of the 2012 Vodafone Rally de Portugal. Despite incurring intercom problems throughout the day, a sensational drive from Evgeny Novikov sees the Russian hold second place going into Day 3. Proving himself to be one of the best young drivers in the World Rally Championship (WRC), Novikov is just 36.3 seconds adrift of the lead. On target for a strong haul of points on his return to the world series, Dennis Kuipers currently lies eighth. Elsewhere, there was heartache for Ott Tänak. After an outstanding performance on the opening day, the Estonian fell foul to the treacherous conditions and will Rally 2 tomorrow.

Returning to the Tavira municipality north-east of Faro, the M-Sport crews tackled 66.34 kilometres of competitive stages. With persistent heavy rain and poor visibility making conditions almost impossible to drive, organisers were forced to cancel the final loop of stages.

Novikov and experienced co-driver Denis Giraudet excelled in the difficult conditions. Despite suffering intercom problems on the first stage (SS5) the young Russian thrived in the conditions to set the fourth fastest time overall – just 4.6 seconds adrift of factory Ford driver, Petter Solberg. With fellow factory Ford driver Jari-Matti Latvala going off the road, Novikov was propelled into fourth position overall.

Catching an ailing Jari Ketomaa on SS6 and having to cope with calling pace notes over the road intercom, Novikov set the sixth fastest time over the 25.15 kilometre test. As disaster struck for Solberg, the young Muscovite found himself in the final podium position going into the final stage of the loop – just 17 seconds adrift of Mads Østberg in second.

The drama continued over SS7. Fearless behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC, Novikov set the second fastest time in pursuit of his best ever WRC finish. A puncture for Østberg saw the Russian climb to second in the overall standings – 5.5 up on the Norwegian and just 36.3 seconds adrift of the lead heading into the third day of competition tomorrow.

Also battling with the tricky conditions, Kuipers continued his strong drive in pursuit of points with the 12th fastest time over the first stage (SS5). Contesting his first rally behind the wheel of the Ford Fiesta RS WRC since November last year, the Dutchman found himself in eighth place overall, just 17.1 seconds adrift of Patrik Sandell in seventh.

The Dutchman set more strong times through SS6 and SS7. In a composed drive through the difficult conditions, Kuipers and co-driver Robin Buysmans excelled where the more experienced faltered, to secure eighth place in the overall standings and will be looking for further gains as the rally unfolds.

Elsewhere, after a sensational drive on the first day of competition, there was heartache for Tänak and co-driver Kuldar Sikk. Falling prey to the treacherous conditions on SS5 the youngster went off the road 1.5 kilometres into the stage. Getting his Ford Fiesta RS WRC back on the road but colliding with unsighted rocks, Tänak was unable to complete the stage but will compete under Rally 2 tomorrow.

With the conditions forcing organisers to cancel the remaining stages, ALM Rally supported Novikov is in prime position for the remaining tests.

Evgeny Novikov (2nd) said:
“It was very difficult out on the stages. It was raining, it was foggy, it was very slippery.

“We also had a problem with the intercom so Denis [Giraudet] had to call my pace notes on the road intercom which made it quite difficult for him.

“Everything is ok with the car and we’ll keep the same set-up. I’m feeling confident in the car and my times have been good. We just need to carry on the way we have been going. Maximum attack.”

Dennis Kuipers (8th) said:
“The conditions are absolutely unbelievable. We have fog, rain, mud, everything! You have to be there to believe it. I’ve never seen anything like it.

“It is so slippery out there and a real challenge just to keep the car on the road. But ok, we are still here and that is the main thing.”

Ott Tänak (Rally 2) said:
”We tried quite hard because we wanted to set some more good times, but there was so much aquaplaning and we went off the road. It was possible to get back on the road because the ditch wasn’t that steep, but there were some big rocks that I couldn’t see which I hit and we got stuck.

“When we get everything sorted with the car, for sure we will carry on but we won’t be able to get any strong points now. But I think we can still do some good stage times and get the experience.”
12-03-30 FIA WRC Academy, end of Day Quotes Rally Portugal Day 2
103. Alastair Fisher (1st) said:
“This has been my most adventurous day’s rallying! We were really pleased with our stage times in the tricky conditions and it has all been good experience. We have a good lead but we still have to concentrate. We were in this situation last year so we need to keep our heads down.”

106. Brendan Reeves (2nd) said:
“The stages were tremendously slippery and the fog was crazy! The grip was really inconsistent so it was difficult to know when to push. I made the car a lot softer for the second stage [SS6] to try and get some more grip but we had a spin and lost some time. We are still in second but Pontus [Tidemand] is not too far behind, so we want to try and keep our position tomorrow. There is still another day and a lot can happen, second would be good but first would be awesome, we will see what happens.”

105. Pontus Tidemand (3rd) said:
“We are just driving steadily. It was really muddy and slippery and easy to make a mistake. It would have been nice to do more today but we are still here. We will try and push some more tomorrow.”

107. Timo van der Marel (4th) said:
“I have always dreamed to drive in Dakar but I think Dakar is nothing compared to the conditions today! It was incredible and really difficult so we are happy to be in fourth. We are sliding everywhere and every corner feels like a moment, I think it is the same for everyone. I am so glad to still be here.”

102. Jose Suarez (5th) said:
“Today went better for us than it did yesterday but it was still very difficult and foggy. We are happy to be in fifth position and we are only 10.6 seconds behind fourth. Tomorrow our plan is to push for fourth.”

101. Chris Duplessis (6th) said:
“The stages were a challenge and fun – very slippery and rough! I still struggled to trust my pace notes as it was really foggy so the visibility was almost as bad as it was last night. Our times were quite slow because of this but we are still here, so I am happy. We are doing alright.”

114. Fredrik Åhlin (7th – Rally 2) said:
“On SS6 we were just a little bit too quick into a second gear left hand corner. I thought it would be OK, but we lightly touched the bank on the outside. I didn’t think it was anything big but we damaged the driveshaft and wishbone so we had to stop. I found it difficult to find the rhythm – it feels like as soon as I start to drive safely we make mistakes. Yesterday when I was pushing as hard as I could we weren’t making mistakes so I think maybe this is what I have to do tomorrow.”

111. João Silva (8th) said:
“Today was another difficult day. We managed to get through, but it was very slippery, rough and foggy. The surface was very degraded. I bent the steering arm so we will change this tonight. I think my car set up was suited to the dry conditions we had on the [WRC] Academy test, so I struggled for confidence. For me I am still learning and I am seeing where my weaknesses are and trying to improve.”

109. Elfyn Evans (9th) said:
“We started off OK this morning and were second fastest through the first stage today [SS5]. We were concentrating on doing the same on the next stage [SS6], and we had found marginally more grip in certain areas. The visibility was poor and when we came into a steep downhill section, the car skidded like it was on ice. There was a drop off the end of the road and we got stuck with the wheels only a foot off the road. We couldn’t manage to get the wheels back on the road even with 15 spectators. We had to drive the car down a bank and build a bridge to get back, which took 14 minutes. We still made it back but obviously are way behind now. We just have to get around now and focus on getting some points. I think the conditions will be really difficult tomorrow also.”

108. John MacCrone (10th) said:
“We were last on the road and caught 2 cars on the first stage [SS5] and another on the next stage [SS6]. It was really foggy and we struggled for traction running so far down on the road so we just focused on keeping our noses clean. I really wanted to go out again this afternoon, the more difficult the conditions the better for me because I think I will be able to move up more places.”

1.Fisher 1:18:17.1,
2.Reeves +59.4
3.Tidemand +1:23.6
4.Van Der Marel +3:56.7
5.Suarez +4:07.3
6.Duplessis +5:03.4
7.Ahlin +5:49.4
8.Silva +13:26.9
9.Evans +15:06.0
10.MacCrone +19:33.6
12-03-30 Latvala and Solberg suffer as storms hit Rally de Portugal
Ford World Rally Team suffered a double disappointment today as both Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila and team-mates Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson retired from the second leg of Rally de Portugal. Both crews were caught out in treacherous weather and went off the road on a day when the legacy of overnight storms forced organisers to cancel three of the six speed tests.

Neither Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Car was badly damaged and both will restart tomorrow under Rally 2 regulations, with a time penalty imposed for the special stages missed. Latvala will incur a 15 minute penalty after crashing out on the opening test, while Solberg will inherit a 10 minute penalty after retiring a stage later.

The one lucky break for the team came with the cancellation of this afternoon’s three stages for safety reasons. It meant an additional 15 minute penalty for each driver for missing the three tests was scrapped.

Today’s second leg was held near the Algarve coastal town of Tavira, using a mix of roads not used for several years and some that were new to this fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Torrential overnight rain turned the dry gravel roads in the hills above the town into a muddy mess, with thick fog adding to the challenge.

Drivers were due to tackle two identical loops of three stages covering 132.68km. The first two stages ran as scheduled, but only 12 cars completed the final stage of the morning before a flooded road on a liaision section brought the event to a halt. Desperate efforts were made to clear the blockage but they were in vain and organisers cancelled the afternoon pass.

Latvala led Solberg by 2.6sec overnight but the 26-year-old Finn’s victory hopes ended in poor visibility 1.4km from the finish of the opening 25.01km Tavira stage.

“I turned into a left corner and saw a rock on the driving line,” explained Latvala. “I didn’t have it marked in my pace notes and I tried to avoid it, but couldn’t. The car touched the rock with the front left and the impact damaged the suspension. The front wheel bent into the wheel arch and the car spun backwards off the road and down a small bank on the right.

“It was muddy, foggy and wet and incredibly slippery – some of the most difficult conditions in which I’ve driven. We had big hopes this morning. We were first and second and had a good opportunity to close the gap on our rivals in the championship. Now that has gone,” he added.

Solberg dropped 10sec in Tavira after briefly sliding off, but was unwilling to take risks in the treacherous conditions and eased his pace. However, the 37-year-old Norwegian was caught out near the end of the following test.

“Thick fog made visibility virtually zero,” he said. “I approached a slow right hand corner and braked as normal, but the car slid wide and dropped into a small ditch. I tried to get back on the road but the clutch burned out in trying to do so. It’s so frustrating because I wasn’t pushing hard. Survival was my only aim and I felt under control, but sometimes even when you ease off these things can happen.

“Conditions were unbelievably bad, and I’ve never driven this car in mud, rain and fog. I felt comfortable at the speed at which I was driving. Now I need to reach the end of the rally, see if I can get back into the points and try to take some bonus points in Sunday’s Power Stage,” said Solberg.

Ford World Rally Team director Malcolm Wilson said the disappointment of the double retirement was felt throughout the team. “After Sébastien Loeb’s retirement, we had an opportunity to close on our championship rivals, but we squandered an incredible lifeline. Conditions were treacherous but both drivers have a lot of experience. We didn’t need the pace, we needed to be smart and clever but we were caught out.

“Jari-Matti is very hurt but we’re 100 per cent supportive of him. We’ll stay behind him and ensure we get back to winning rallies. We know both he and the car have the pace and we need to ensure that all comes together on the next rally in Argentina. Today was a huge disappointment but I’ve been in this sport long enough to know we can fight back. Our real team spirit will kick in,” added Wilson.

News from other Ford teams
M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Evgeny Novikov / Denis Giraudet lie second in a Fiesta RS WRC, 5.5 sec ahead of Adapta World Rally Team’s Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson. Østberg lost time when he drove the final stage with a rear left puncture. Czech Ford National Team’s Martin Prokop / Zdenek Hruza recovered superbly from last night’s electrical problems to climb from 18th to fifth. The Fiesta RS WRCs of Dennis Kuipers / Robin Buysmans and Jari Ketomaa / Mika Stenberg are also in the top 10, in eighth and 10th respectively. M-Sport Ford’s Ott Tänak / Kuldar Sikk were another crew to fall foul of the conditions, retiring from fourth in the opening stage after sliding into a ditch and hitting rocks.

Tomorrow’s Route
The third leg covers familiar territory north of Faro and is the longest of the rally. After leaving the town at 08.30, drivers tackle two identical loops of three stages, split by a return to the service park at the Algarve Stadium. They return there for the final overnight halt at 18.25 after 148.16km of competition.

Leaderboard after Day 2
1. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen FIN Citroen DS3 1hr 20min 01.7sec
2. E Novikov/D Giraudet RUS Ford Fiesta RS 1hr 20min 38.0sec
3. M Østberg/J Andersson NOR Ford Fiesta RS 1hr 20min 43.5sec
4. P Sandell/M Andersson SWE Mini John Cooper 1hr 23min 08.9sec
5. M Prokop/Z Hruza CZE Ford Fiesta RS 1hr 23min 27.5sec
6. N Al Attiyah/G Bernacchini QAT Citroen DS3 1hr 23min 48.6sec
7. P Van Merksteijn/E Chevaillier NED Citroen DS3 1hr 23min 52.5sec
8. D Kuipers/R Buysmans NED Ford Fiesta RS 1hr 24min 42.8sec
9. S Ogier/J Ingrassia FRA Skoda Fabia S2000 1hr 25min 46.8sec
10 J Ketomaa/M Stenberg FIN Ford Fiesta RS 1hr 25min 54.0sec

Stage Times
Stage 5: 1. Sordo 17min 55.3sec; 2. Prokop + 57.2; 3. P Solberg + 1:08.7; 4. Novikov + 1:13.3; 5. Østberg + 1:16.8; 6. Araujo + 1:20.1.
Overall: 1. P Solberg 44min 11.2sec; 2. Hirvonen + 25.1; 3. Østberg + 58.8; 4. Novikov + 1:04.9; 5. Ketomaa + 2:01.2; 6. Al Attiyah + 2:21.2.

Stage 6: 1. Sordo 20min 14.7sec; 2. Prokop + 48.2; 3. Araujo + 1:07.8; 4. Østberg + 1:22.8; 5. Hirvonen + 1:25.1; 6. Novikov + 1:33.7.
Overall: 1. Hirvonen 1hr 06min 16.1sec; 2. Østberg + 31.4; 3. Novikov + 48.4; 4. Sandell + 2:32.6; 5. Al Attiyah + 3:01.3; 6. Van Merksteijn + 3:06.6.

Stage 7: 1. Sordo 13min 11.7sec; 2. Novikov + 21.8; 3. Hirvonen + 33.9; 4. Østberg + 44.3; 5. Araujo + 51.9; 6. Prokop + 52.8.
Overall: 1. Hirvonen 1hr 20min 01.7sec; 2. Novikov + 36.3; 3. Østberg + 41.8; 4. Sandell + 3:07.2; 5. Prokop + 3:25.8; 6. Al Attiyah + 3:46.9.

Stage 8: Cancelled
Stage 9: Cancelled
Stage 10: Cancelled
12-03-30 Sandell fyra i regnigt Portugal
Dag två av Portugals VM-rally blev en riktig dräpare, med mer eller mindre bortspolade vägar och strukna sträckor. Det ena ekipaget efter det andra fick problem i de extremt svåra förhållandena. En som höll tungan rätt i mun var dock Patrik Sandell som avancerad till en fjärde plats.
- Det spöregnade och var dimma. Man såg bara två meter. Jag bestämde mig redan på första sträckan att bara köra mitt eget race utan att snegla på de andra. Hitta min rytm och hålla mig på vägen, berättar Patrik Sandell, som kör en WRC-MINI för Sweden World Rally Team.

Det visade sig bli en vinnande taktik, då mängder av förare fick problem i leran. Redan efter tre sträckor hade Sandell och hans codriver Maria Andersson klättrat till en fjärde plast.

Och sent på eftermiddagen kom beskedet. Arrangörerna beslöt att helt stryka eftermiddagens tre sträckor, då vägarna på sina ställen mer eller mindre spolats bort. För Patrik Sandell och Marias del innebär att de behåller sin fjärdeplats inför lördagen.
- Det är tråkigt att de tvingades stryka sträckorna, men det har ändå varit en bra dag för oss. En fjärde plats är skitbra, men det är 26 mil kvar, så det här är långt ifrån över, avslutar Patrik Sandell.

Klockan 09:49 lokal tid imorgon drar rallyt igång igen, då första bil ger sig ut på den elfte specialsträckan.

www.swedenworldrallyteam.com och www.patriksandell.com.
12-03-30 Elsewhere, Midday QUotes Rally Portugal Day 2
Mads Østberg, Adapta World Rally Team, Ford Fiesta RS WRC (3rd) said:
“It has been a very difficult morning with very tricky conditions, that’s for sure! We have been trying to push but it is difficult with the fog, rain and mud. But ok we have had quite a clean run with no major problems and I think that is why we are in this position now.

“We did the whole last stage [SS7] with a left-rear puncture. We wanted to change it before the start but we were not allowed and we lost a lot of time there.”

Martin Prokop, Ford Fiesta RS WRC (5th) said:
“The stages are full of fog and rain and there was a lot of mud out there so it was very difficult to stay on the road. We are trying to go as fast as possible, but as the fog got thicker, visibility was impossible and we had to slow down a lot.

“We will try to somehow drive faster, but really it is crazy weather! The fog is changing all the time. Sometimes you can see 50 metres, sometimes only 20.

“We fixed the engine problem last night. It was just engine coils. So now the car is driving well and it is just a case of coping with the conditions.”

Jari Ketomaa, Ford Fiesta RS WRC (10th) said:
“It is very difficult to drive out there. The fog is unbelievable and you can’t see anything in the stages. It is so slippery, you really can’t imagine!

“We had an engine problem on the uphill section of the second stage [SS6]. We are missing one cylinder so there is no power at all and we can’t get the car out of the corners.

“We’ll try to fix it in service and hopefully there is no mechanical damage. We’ll change some of the set-up too and hopefully I can find a bit more confidence in the car, but the main thing is to stay on the road.”

Yazeed Al Rajhi, Ford Fiesta RRC
Al Rahji is currently leading the S-WRC after SS6. But the car is delayed en route to SS7.

Maciek Oleksowicz, Ford Fiesta S2000
Oleksowicz became stuck in a deep water splash on the road section between SS6 and SS7.

Daniel Oliveira, Brazil World Rally Team, Ford Fiesta RS WRC
Oliveira is believed to be off the road on the liaison section between SS6 and SS7.

Craig Breen, Ford Fiesta S2000
Breen hit a water splash on SS5 and damaged the car. The problem ensued and the Irishman was forced to stop on SS6. Breen will not restart today.

12-03-30 M-Sport Ford WRT, Midday Quetes Rally Portugal day 2
Evgeny Novikov (2nd) said:
“It was very difficult out on the stages. It was raining, it was foggy, it was very slippery.

“We also had a problem with the intercom so Denis [Giraudet] had to call my pace notes with the road headset which made it quite difficult for him.

“Everything is ok with the car and we’ll keep the same set-up over the afternoon loop. I’m feeling confident in the car and my times have been good. We just need to carry on the way we have been going. Maximum attack.”

Dennis Kuipers (8th) said:
“The conditions are absolutely unbelievable. We have fog, rain, mud, everything! You have to be there to believe it. I’ve never seen anything like it.

“It is so slippery out there and a real challenge just to keep the car on the road. But ok, we are still here and that is the main thing.”

Ott Tänak
Tänak went off the road 1.5km into SS5. Stuck in a ditch, the Estonian will not restart today.

12-03-30 WRC Academy - End of day quetes day 1
114. Fredrik Åhlin (1st) said:
“The first three stages were good and I am really happy to be leading. The last stage [SS4] was not what I had hoped for and we lost maybe 10 seconds there. I made a set up change before the last stage, which didn’t work, and we had no traction. We also lost our rhythm with the notes so didn’t push. Unfortunately the change didn’t work but that’s rallying.”

106. Brendan Reeves (2nd) said:
“I am finding being here for the second time so much better. We are more comfortable and we know the car and the set-up we need. We also know how important it is to get to the finish. We are not pushing so hard now, just focusing on tomorrow and getting the car to the finish.
“It was great to win the opening stage and exciting that every stage so far has had a different winner. I made a few small errors tonight but all in all I am really happy with how everything is going. We just need to make sure we get it right tomorrow.”

103. Alastair Fisher (3rd) said:
“Overall we had a good run. I overshot a junction on SS2. Luckily there was an access road we could take, but we lost the best part of 10 seconds. The rest of the stages, especially the last stage [SS4] went well for us.”

105. Pontus Tidemand (4th) said:
“Today was quite good. We had an easy start and were beginning to push more on the stages tonight. We will keep the same pace and try to get the car to the finish.”

109. Elfyn Evans (5th) said:
“It was difficult out there tonight. We started off well on the first gravel stage [SS2] but half way through the screen misted up and it took a while to clear. We also caught a car and couldn’t pass him so ended up stuck in the dust. I struggled for the two stages after that to get into the groove. Nothing really clicked so we will have to try and re-focus for the morning and see what we can do.”

107. Timo van der Marel (6th) said:
“Today was difficult, very difficult! It was the first time for me to drive properly on gravel in the dark. We had a few issues with our windscreen fogging up and some pace notes on the last stage [SS4]. But we made it back here which is the most important thing.”

102. Jose Suárez (7th) said:
“The super special stage was very good and I was happy with our time. Unfortunately the other stages were not so good. We are struggling with our pace notes and the conditions were quite difficult. I think it will be better tomorrow so we will wait until then.”

101. Chris Duplessis (8th) said:
“This evening was alright, although I was having trouble trusting my pace notes. It is my first time writing my own notes so at night and in the rain it was a little tough! I think my times show that. But we are having fun and we are still here.”

111. Joao Silva (9th) said:
“The Super Special Stage went very well for us but it was much more difficult out on the gravel stages. I have never driven in these conditions and the visibility was very bad. Having total confidence in the pace notes was also difficult. On the last stage [SS4] we got stuck and had to wait for help to get back on the road. But I am looking forward to the daylight tomorrow!”

108. John MacCrone (Rally 2)
“We came over a crest too fast on SS2 and the nose of the car dived and landed heavily. The sumpguard dug into the road and damaged the front of the car so we were not able to continue. I am disappointed but it’s not over yet and we are looking forward to tomorrow.”

Åhlin 29:28.6
Reeves +0.5
Fisher +1.9
Tidemand +15.7
Evans +32.3
Van Der Marel +58.7
Suárez +1:34.6
Duplessis +1:50.6
Silva +7:37.7
MacCrone +14:48.1 (Rally 2)

12-03-30 Araújo Unphased by First Day Hiccough
WRC Team MINI Portugal No.1 driver Armindo Araújo and co-driver Miguel Ramalho successfully completed the first day at Rally de Portugal despite facing a rough start to the event.

The day got underway with the Lisbon Super Special Stage - run beside the Jerónimos Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site - where thousands of fans gathered to cheer on national hero Araújo. On the 3.27km Tarmac stage, the Portuguese driver set the 7th fastest time overall, only 4.3 seconds behind stage winner Petter Solberg.

Three competitive night stages followed and were made even more challenging by the rain. Araújo was determined to make a cautious start trying to find a good rhythm but unfortunately a mistake in the pace notes made his MINI John Cooper Works WRC slide off the road 1km into SS2 costing him nearly 5 minutes. However, the Portuguese fans, never to let their hero down, turned out in force to help the crew get their MINI back on the road and in the competition.

Refusing to lose his focus, Araújo tackled SS3 with consistency, clocking the 10th time overall 37.7 seconds off stage winner Jari-Matti Latvala. Despite losing more time due to a cloudburst which soaked the first part of SS4, he is now looking for a fresh start tomorrow.

Armindo Araújo:
"The support from my home crowd has been as fantastic as ever and the atmosphere in Lisbon was incredible. We made a mistake at the beginning of SS2 - we had a wrong pace note and the MINI slid off the road 1km into the stage. We were pushed back on the road by spectators but unfortunately we lost about 4 minutes 30 seconds. That is rally though and these things can happen. We'll start afresh tomorrow and we'll do our best to win back some of the time we lost. Of course I'm a bit disappointed but the rally is still very long and anything can happen. Our MINI didn't have any problems after we went off and I'm pleased with its performance."

The second day of Rally de Portugal will feature six special stages - three run twice - around the Tavira area, covering 132.68km. The action starts at 11.00 when the cars leave the Algarve Stadium for another long day battling on the Portuguese gravel.
12-03-30 Elsewhere, end of day quotes
Mads Østberg, Adapta World Rally Team, Ford Fiesta RS WRC (6th)
“Today was pretty challenging! We took it really steady in the first stage [SS1] because we didn’t do so well there last year. For us it was important to get through that stage with no problems, and we did so that was good.

“The first proper stage [SS2] was quite good for us. We had a pretty good rhythm and everything worked really well. On the next one [SS3] we had an early puncture on the front-right and we ended up doing 70 to 80 per cent of the stage with the puncture so obviously we lost quite a lot of time there.

“Then on the last stage [SS4] we had a lot of really bad rain – only the last three kilometres with no rain. It was quite slippery and the polished rocks made the conditions really difficult. But that is the way it is and it was the same for a lot of other drivers too.

“I hope for a wet, muddy and difficult day tomorrow because now we are starting a little further up the field. I really like driving in tricky conditions too, so if we have that tomorrow I think it would be an advantage for us.”

Jari Ketomaa, Ford Fiesta RS WRC (8th)
“It was very tricky driving in the dark and I couldn’t get the confidence in the pace notes. Also the set-up was not completely right as we made some changes after qualifying which didn’t go to plan. I couldn’t get the feeling from the front tyres and I didn’t have the confidence going into the corners.”

Craig Breen, Ford Fiesta S2000 (13th)
“We had a bit of trouble on the first stage tonight [SS2]. We went through a ford and sucked in a lot of water so the car wasn’t running quite right for the next six or seven kilometres after that. We were just on three cylinders so we lost a lot of time there.

“We pushed on the second one [SS3] but something happened with the intercom on that last stage [SS4]. There was a real weird buzzing noise coming through it so that was a bit distracting.

“But I’m relatively pleased with how the rally has gone so far. Tomorrow we will push. I want to prove just how fast I can be around here.”

Daniel Oliveira, Brazil World Rally Team, Ford Fiesta RS WRC (16th)
“The idea was to take it pretty relaxed as these were our first stages in the car. Ok, having to do this in the darkness was not the perfect conditions, but it was ok. The car looks good and tomorrow will be a real day – I’m really looking forward to it."

Yazeed Al Rajhi, Ford Fiesta RRC (17th)
“The stages were really nice. The first night stage [SS2] went really well for us but on the last two [SS3 and SS4] I tried to take it slower. It’s a long rally and the rain meant that the grip levels were changing all the time. But I’m really enjoying it and tomorrow I will try to push step by step.”

Martin Prokop, Ford Fiesta RS WRC (18th)
“We had a problem with the engine so we were just cruising through most of the stages. We tried to repair the car but it was not possible. It looks as though we might have a big problem with the engine, but we will try to repair it and hopefully we can be back to where we need to be tomorrow.”

Maciek Oleksowicz, Ford Fiesta S2000 (20th)
“This was the first time I have ever driven in conditions like this and it was really hard! Especially on the second stage [SS3] there was a lot of rain and a lot of mud on the road.

“But I hope tomorrow will be much better for us. Hopefully we may get a little bit of sunshine and we will try to go faster.”
12-03-30 Stage win as Tänak conqueres conditions
M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Ott Tänak and Evgeny Novikov chose opposing strategies as the eyes of the World Rally Championship (WRC) looked to the skies for the first traditional gravel event of the season at the Vodafone Rally de Portugal. Another stunning drive from Tänak left the Estonian an impressive fourth after Day 1. Despite incurring problems with a misfire, Novikov did well to recover seventh and Dutchman Dennis Kuipers had a strong drive to 10th place overall.

Yesterday’s qualifying session saw M-Sport’s young guns establish themselves as the sport’s future stars. Securing the fifth fastest time, Tänak was just 0.3 seconds adrift of reigning champion Sébastien Loeb and 1.2 up on championship rival Dani Sordo. Happy with his time in sixth, Novikov continued the privateers’ charge, 1.2 seconds adrift of his team-mate. Elsewhere, back behind the wheel of the Ford Fiesta RS WRC for the first time since November last year, Kuipers set the 14th fastest time overall.

The position selection presented one of the most difficult decisions for the M-Sport drivers to date: to risk sweeping the road up front, or to have the possibility of being blighted by dust clouds at the back of the field. Choosing opposing strategies, Tänak and co-driver Kuldar Sikk chose to start third on the road, with Novikov opting for 15th position in the running order. Dutchman Kuipers chose to start 10th overall.

Returning to last year’s popular Super Special at the Praça do Império, Rally de Portugal kicked off in style at Lisbon’s city centre. Impressing once again, Tänak claimed ‘best of the rest’ with another fifth fastest time. Setting the 10th fastest time overall, Dutchman Kuipers shone alongside new-for-2012 co-driver Robin Buysmans. Elsewhere, Novikov and experienced co-driver Denis Giraudet found themselves an uncharacteristic 13th overall.

The Rally recommenced with three night-stages through the mountains north of Faro. With no dust affecting the stages, Tänak was disadvantaged running early in the order. Despite this however, the youngster set a blistering time on SS2 to claim the sixth fastest time just 0.5 seconds adrift of Mikko Hirvonen and Norwegian Mads Østberg who was running 12th on the road.

Recovering well and making a good choice running later in the order to avoid sweeping the dry, dust-free stages, Novikov set the seventh fastest time to climb the leaderboard from 13th to an impressive eighth overall over the first 10.19 km test. Having achieved this despite suffering from a misfiring engine, Novikov replicated the potential he showed in the first two events of the season.

Elsewhere, Kuipers set the 12th fastest time but lost out to Jari Ketomaa in the overall standings.
With the roads not clearing as much as expected, Tänak’s choice to run third demonstrated his ever improving intuition and raw speed behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC. With Loeb going off the road 7 km into the 14.29 km test, the Estonian set the fourth fastest time and climbed to fourth in the standings.

Setting the sixth fastest time over SS3, Novikov continued to impress. His misfire woes prevailing, the Russian leap-frogged Østberg for sixth overall; continuing his climb up the leader board.

Kuipers came alive over the 14.29 km of SS3. Setting an impressive time behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC, the Dutchman was propelled into eighth place in the overall standings.

The last stage of the day saw mixed conditions for the M-Sport crews. With heaving rain affecting the end of the stage, Tänak’s choice of third on the road paid dividends and gifted the youngster another stage win after two Super Special wins at Rally Mexico. Heading into the second day of competition, Tänak lies fourth overall, 10.7 seconds adrift of the podium and just 15.7 seconds from rally leader, Jari-Matti Latvala.

Disadvantaged by running later in the stage, Novikov was blighted by the heavy rain. Having to cope with treacherously slippery conditions, the young Muscovite set the 11th fastest time and will start Day 2 in seventh position overall.

Also having to contend with the tricky conditions, Kuipers set the 13th fastest time over the final stage. Starting tomorrow 10th overall, the Dutchman will be chasing the points on his first WRC event of 2012.

Ott Tänak (4th) said:
“I’m quite happy. Of course I’m not so happy with the middle stage [SS3] because we made a bit of a stupid mistake there. We forgot the lights because it was pretty light at the start of the stage and then it was getting too dark and I was thinking something is missing!

“Ok, this stage [SS3] wasn’t the best, but we won the last stage [SS4] which was our first proper stage win so that was nice.

“For us, it was really dry on the first stages so we had to do a bit of cleaning. But then it started to rain which changed the conditions quite a lot. Overall I think our starting position wasn’t too bad. But I also think there wasn’t a perfect starting position for today. In the first stages it was better to be behind, but in the last ones, for sure it was better to be out in front.

“So, all in all, I think we did ok!”

Evgeny Novikov (7th) said:
“Today was not so good. We had an issue with a misfire from the first stage. Also the rain on SS4 meant that the conditions were really difficult. It was really slippery, but this was the same for a lot of drivers.

“It could be better. But ok, we will see what we can do tomorrow.”

Dennis Kuipers (10th) said:
“Driving in the dark was quite difficult. It’s a different world! But we went well and I’m feeling good in the car, so I’m quite happy.

“In the last stage we had quite a bit of rain which made the road pretty slippery. But it was ok for us and hopefully we can push a little bit harder tomorrow.”
12-03-30 Latvala and Solberg head Rally de Portugal leaderboard for Ford
Ford World Rally Team lies first and second after today’s opening leg of Rally de Portugal. Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila lead this fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship in a Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Car by 2.6sec from the similar car of team-mates Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson.

The team won three of the four speed tests which made up the short opening day’s action in this four-day event. Solberg, who was fastest in qualifying yesterday, was quickest over the opening two special stages, while Latvala took the honours in the penultimate test.

The Fiesta RS WRC claimed a clean sweep of the fastest times as M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Ott Tänak and Kuldar Sikk won the final stage. Seven Fiesta RS WRCs lie inside the top 10.

Today’s action started 250km north of the Faro rally base in the capital city of Lisbon, where competitors tackled a short asphalt stage alongside Jerónimos Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They then journeyed south towards the Algarve coastline for three gravel tests in darkness in the hills above Faro, completing a total of 38.85km of competition.

Solberg led after the Lisbon stage and extended his advantage over Latvala to 2.2sec following the opening night-time test. However, 26-year-old Latvala edged ahead of his Norwegian rival in the penultimate stage and stretched his margin over the final test.

Rain threatened throughout tonight’s action, and a cloudburst soaked the early sections of the final stage shortly before Latvala and Solberg started. Having chosen to start last of the priority drivers today in search of better grip on cleaner gravel tracks, the Ford duo limited the time loss to their rivals ahead, who completed the test before the rain fell.

“We didn’t expect the rain to be as strong as it was,” admitted Latvala. “When it was light it wasn’t a problem, but when it became heavier the roads turned muddy. The first 4km were slippery and a couple of times I slide wide. Luckily it became drier later on, the grip improved and I found the confidence to push again.

“I was worried about dust hanging in the air but the organisers promised there wouldn’t be a problem, and they were right. We spent a lot of time analysing our start position. It was a hard choice but our research paid off and we made the right decision to start down the order. Tomorrow I need to stay calm and be sensible and clever, because there are still 400km and three days to go,” he added.

Solberg admitted to a half spin in the rain during the final stage at a right-left combination of bends. “I only dropped about 5 sec but it was so slippery in the mud with hard compound tyres fitted to the car. A lot of drivers ahead had a dry run and it was unfortunate the rain started to fall just before we were due to start the stage,” he said.

“I feel confident and I was never pushing at the maximum. It was a good, controlled feeling. When I learned Sébastien Loeb had crashed then I was even more cautious. It removed some pressure from the team and I didn’t want to take any risks in the dark,” added Solberg.

Ford World Rally Team director Malcolm Wilson was ‘delighted’ with the evening’s work. “To hold first and second tonight was our target. It means both drivers will be behind our rivals in tomorrow’s running order and we can monitor their split times and respond accordingly. It’s the perfect situation. The positions prove we got our start order strategy correct, despite the wet roads in the last stage. We knew it was going to rain, but we didn’t know when or what the intensity would be,” he said.

News from other Ford teams
M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Ott Tänak / Kuldar Sikk hold fourth in a Fiesta RS WRC, two places and 37.6sec ahead of Adapta World Rally Team’s Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson, who punctured a front right tyre in stage three. Evgeny Novikov / Denis Giraudet are seventh in the M-Sport Ford squad’s second car, with team-mates Dennis Kuipers / Robin Buysmans in 10th. Eighth place is held by Jari Ketomaa / Mika Stenberg, but the Czech Ford National Team car of Martin Prokop / Zdenek Hruza struggled with a faulty ignition coil and they are 18th.

Tomorrow’s Route
The second leg is based around Tavira, north-east of Faro, over roads that were not used last year. Some are totally new to the rally. After restarting at 11.00, drivers tackle two identical loops of three stages covering 132.68km. The two loops are split by service at the Algarve Stadium in Faro, and drivers return there for the overnight halt at 19.05.

Leaderboard after Day 1
1. J-M Latvala/M Anttila FIN Ford Fiesta RS 25min 04.6sec
2. P Solberg/C Patterson NOR Ford Fiesta RS 25min 07.2sec
3. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen FIN Citroen DS3 25min 09.6sec
4. O Tänak/K Sikk EST Ford Fiesta RS 25min 20.3sec
5. T Neuville/N Gilsoul BEL Citroen DS3 25min 38.6sec
6. M Østberg/J Andersson NOR Ford Fiesta RS 25min 57.9sec
7. E Novikov/D Giraudet RUS Ford Fiesta RS 26min 07.5sec
8. J Ketomaa/M Stenberg FIN Ford Fiesta RS 26min 19.6sec
9. H Paddon/J Kennard NZL Skoda Fabia 26min 44.2sec
10 D Kuipers/R Buysmans NED Ford Fiesta RS 26min 51.7sec

Stage Times
Stage 1: 1. P Solberg 2min 57.1sec; 2. Loeb + 2.0; 3= Latvala, Hirvonen + 0.7; 5. Tänak + 2.8; 6. Sordo + 3.8.

Stage 2: 1. P Solberg 6min 38.1sec; 2. Latvala + 1.5; 3. Loeb + 6.0; 4= Østberg, Hirvonen + 8.9; 6. Tänak + 9.4.
Overall: 1. P Solberg 9min 35.2sec; 2. Latvala + 2.2; 3. Loeb + 6.1; 4. Hirvonen + 9.6; 5. Tänak + 12.2; 6. Østberg + 16.6.

Stage 3: 1. Latvala 8min 34.4sec; 2. P Solberg + 2.7; 3. Hirvonen + 3.5; 4. Tänak + 13.0; 5. Neuville + 17.3; 6. Novikov + 18.9.
Overall: 1. Latvala 18min 11.8sec; 2. P Solberg + 0.5; 3. Hirvonen + 10.9; 4. Tänak + 23.0; 5. Neuville + 34.3; 6. Novikov + 38.1.

Stage 4: 1. Tänak 6min 45.5sec; 2. Hirvonen + 1.4; 3. Neuville + 7.0; 4. Latvala + 7.3; 5. P Solberg + 9.4; 6. Ketomaa + 12.9.
Overall: 1. Latvala 25min 04.6sec; 2. P Solberg + 2.6; 3. Hirvonen + 5.0; 4. Tänak + 15.7; 5. Neuville + 34.0; 6. Østberg + 53.3.

12-03-30 Sandell elva efter kvällssträckorna
Patrik Sandell och Maria Andersson, som tävlar för Sweden World Rally Team i en WRC-MINI, ligger elva efter första dagen av Rally Portugal. Leder gör finländaren Jari-Matti Latvala, knappt två minuter före svenskarna.

Rallyt startade med en kort superspecial inne i Lissabon under eftermiddagen. Därefter gav sig ekipagen av söderut mot Algarve-regionen för de tre kvällssträckorna, som blev en tuff uppgift i mörker och regn.
- Det var riktigt riktigt svårkört ikväll. Jag fick verkligen jobba för att hitta rytmen, så det känns bra att vi tagit oss igenom helskinnade, säger Patrik Sandell efter målgången på dagens sista sträcka.

En av de som det inte gick lika bra för var åttafaldige världsmästaren Sebastien Loeb, som körde av i mörkret på den tredje sträckan. Snabbast av alla var Jari-Matti Latvala, som leder före Petter Solberg och Mikko Hirvonen.
- Bilen känns bra i alla. Det var lite si och så med greppet ibland, men det handlade mer om underlaget än om bilen, så det lovar gott inför imorgon, säger Patrik Sandell.

Vodafone Rally de Portugal fortsätter vid lunchtid under fredagen, då sex nya specialsträckor står på schemat.
12-03-28 Latvala and Solberg take qualifying honours for Ford in Portugal
Ford World Rally Team claimed first and second in qualifying for Rally de Portugal today. Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila powered their Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Car to fastest time by 1.771sec ahead of team-mates Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson over the 4.96km speed test near Faro.

Ford has been fastest in all three qualifying sessions in this year’s FIA World Rally Championship. Latvala was quickest in Sweden and Solberg set the fastest time at the last round in Mexico.

“The car felt fantastic,” said 26-year-old Latvala. “I made the time up in a tricky section where the road curved right over a jump, followed by another right bend immediately afterwards. I braked more heavily than usual for the jump so the car didn’t go too high, and that meant I could go flat out through the next corner. I’ve never done that before but I had the confidence that the grip was there.”

Solberg was happy with second. “It’s just where I wanted to be. I took no risks because it was a tricky stage. It was very narrow and fast but there was no dust so we had a clear run. From the team’s perspective it’s an absolutely perfect start,” said the 37-year-old Norwegian, who warmed up for the rally by winning the non-championship Fafe Rally Sprint in northern Portugal on Saturday.

Ford’s one-two allowed Latvala and Solberg the first choice of start positions for tomorrow’s opening leg. Latvala chose to start last of the priority drivers, with Solberg one place ahead, both hoping a later running position will offer cleaner and faster conditions on the gravel roads.

Ford World Rally Team director Malcolm Wilson was delighted with the team’s performance. “I’m confident our drivers and the Fiesta RS WRC have the pace we need to be fully competitive here in Portugal. However, we have to be aware that the rally is 80km longer than in previous years and after a dry winter, the roads are some of the roughest we will encounter in the championship. We will have to balance our speed with the need to look after the car as well,” he said.

The four-day rally begins tomorrow in Lisbon with a 3.27km asphalt test in the city itself. Competitors then make the long journey back to Faro on the Algarve coast via three special stages in darkness in the hills above the town. The rally ends on Sunday after 22 stages covering 434.77km of competition.

Qualifying times
1. J-M Latvala/M Anttila FIN Ford Fiesta RS 3min 01.884sec
2. P Solberg/C Patterson NOR Ford Fiesta RS 3min 03.655sec
3. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen FIN Citroen DS3 3min 04.232sec
4. S Loeb/D Elena FRA Citroen DS3 3min 04.249sec
5. O Tänak/K Sikk EST Ford Fiesta RS 3min 04.582sec
6. E Novikov/D Giraudet RUS Ford Fiesta RS 3min 05.754sec
7. D Sordo/C Del Barrio ESP Mini John Cooper 3min 05.789sec
8. J Ketomaa/M Stenberg FIN Ford Fiesta RS 3min 05.921sec
9. M Østberg/J Andersson NOR Ford Fiesta RS 3min 05.968sec
10 T Neuville/N Gilsoul BEL Citroen DS3 3min 06.142sec

For more information: Contact Mark Wilford or Russell Atkins at the Ford World Rally Team media desk in Faro Tel: + 351 289 093823. Images available at www.worldrallypics.com/ford
12-03-27 Pontus Tidemand är laddad inför Junior-VM premiären
På torsdag startar Rally Portugal och på startlinjen finns den 21-åriga rallytalangen Pontus Tidemand från Charlottenberg.
Rally Portugal som är en av årets deltävlingar i både WRC och JWRC (WRC Academy) avgörs i trakterna runt i Faro på Algarvekusten i Portugal.

Det var snabba ryck för Pontus innan tävlingen i Portugal då starten blev klar endast några veckor innan genom ett samarbete med det norska talangutvecklingsbolaget EVEN Rally.
- Ja det var riktigt kul att vi fick lyckades sy ihop detta upplägget tillsammans med EVEN Rally och jag tror det kommer bli en viktig del av min fortsatta utveckling. Jag kommer köra sex stycken VM-deltävlingar och lära mig vägarna och få mer erfarenhet av Rally-VM, berättar Pontus.

De tio JWRC-ekipagen kommer köra fyra sträckor redan på torsdagskvällen och sedan ytterligare tio sträckor under fredagen och lördagen innan de går i mål vid Algarve Stadium på lördagseftermiddagen.
- Vi har kört rekognoseringen i två dagar nu och det är en helt annorlunda typ av vägar och sträckor som jag är van vid. Vi har haft fyra punkteringar redan på reken så är jätteviktigt att åka med insidan av huvudet denna tävling och komma i mål, berättar Pontus.

På plats i Portugal tillsammans med Pontus finns även Bror Danielsson som kommer vara en viktig del av Pontus framtida utveckling.
- Jag och Bror har känt varandra sedan jag var liten genom min pappa och har hjälpt mig genom åren på olika sätt. Nu kommer han vara med mig framöver som coach och mentor. Bror har ju kört massa VM-rallyn och har ett stort kontaktnät som jag tror kommer bli en viktig del av min framtida utveckling detta året tillsammans med stödet jag har från EVEN rally, säger Pontus
- Pontus tycker jag är den största talangen inom rallysport som vi har haft i Sverige på väldigt länge och jag skall försöka stötta han på alla sätt som jag kan framöver. Jag har ju varit i denna branschen i rätt många år och man har ju lärt sig många fallgropar och byggt upp en ett stort kontaktnät som jag tror kan gynna Pontus i hans framtida utveckling, berättar Bror Danielsson som är Svensk Mästare sex gånger och kört de mesta VM-rallyna flera gånger som fabriksförare.

12-03-27 Sandell växlar upp inför Portugal med nya codrivern
Det blir andra gången gillt för Patrik Sandell i den högsta VM-klassen när Rally Portugal startar på torsdag. Det blir dessutom premiär tillsammans med nya kartläsaren Maria Andersson.

Sandell och Andersson, som tävlar för Sweden World Rally Team i en WRC-MINI, har redan hunnit med flera stopp under sin Portugalvistelse. Först ett test under fredagen och därefter en kort rallysprint under lördagen.
- Förberedelserna har gått enligt planerna och det känns som att jag och Maria har hunnit hitta varandra. Vi hade ett bra test i fredags och har en bra känsla inför rallyt, säger Patrik Sandell.

Vodafone Rally de Portugal inleds med en superspecial inne i Lissabon torsdag eftermiddag. Efter den publiksträckan blir det 20 mil transport ner mot Algarve vid sydkusten och inväntan på mörkret. För redan under torsdagskvällen avverkas tre stycken kvällssträckor, vilket är nytt för tävlingen.

Det gör också att hela rallyt är längre än vanligt i WRC-sammanhang. Närmare 45 mil specialsträckor mot 35 som brukar vara standard.
- Sträckorna är annars till stor del samma som jag kört tidigare. Jag känner igen dem, men det blir ändå lite som att vara här för första gången för vi återanvänder inga noter utan skriver helt nya, säger Patrik Sandell.

Just notskrivningen är dessutom lite extra viktig i Portugal enligt svensken.
- Vägarna är lite speciella för att det är så många blinda kurvor över krön. En liten miss i noterna och det kan vara kört sen, säger Patrik.

Redan onsdag morgon får Sandell tillfälle att testa noterna. Då körs den fem km långa kvalsträckan som avgör startordningen under den första tävlingsdagen.

Kl 15 lokal tid på torsdag ger sig första bilen ut på SS1, superspecialen i Lissabon.

<< Till startsidan