Pictures courtesy Red Bull Content Pool
Kris Meeke, the Northern
Irishman won the Vodafone Rally De Portugal , the four-day rough road event by
29.7sec in his Citroën’s DS 3 on Sunday (May 22, 2016). Meeke was back in the championship
after missing the previous two rallies in the Americas. This was his second
success after victory in Argentina last year.
Thirty-six-year-old Meeke followed Sébastien
Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala and Hayden Paddon onto the top step of the WRC podium
this year after building a lead of almost a minute during the first part of the
rally and measuring his pace through the final day-and-a-half.
He took the lead in the second stage on Friday
morning and remained troublefree on the rocky mountain roads in the north of the
country, making the most of clean, grippy conditions courtesy of a low start
“It was nearly a perfect weekend, a text book
performance. It’s another step for me as a driver. This year is all about
gathering experience and I couldn’t have done any more. We’ll use these rallies
this year for our benefit and try to mount a title challenge next year,” said
Meeke, who is driving a part-programme as Citroën develops a new car for 2017.
Meanwhile, after an
overly-cautious opening day, a rejuvenated Andreas Mikkelsen upped his pace to
grab second from team-mate and championship leader Sébastien Ogier. Set-up
changes to his Volkswagen Polo R inspired the Norwegian who won Sunday’s
opening two stages and finished 4.8sec ahead.
Ogier suffered two punctures on
the last day. With just one spare wheel in his Polo R, he compromised his pace
to ensure he completed the final Power Stage and reach the Matosinhos finish
after topping up one of the flat tyres with air.
Dani Sordo finished fourth after his hopes of a
podium ended yesterday due to stability issues with the rear of his Hyundai
i20. Eric Camilli claimed a career-best fifth in only his fifth start in a
World Rally Car. The Frenchman had a broken handbrake in his Ford Fiesta RS
today and a final stage spin almost allowed Jari-Matti Latvala to catch him.
The gap was 5.3sec.
Latvala completed the rally with blistered and
bandaged hands after wrestling his Polo R through the twisty mountains on
Friday with broken power steering.
Mads Østberg was almost three minutes behind
in seventh in another Fiesta RS after downshifting problems and a broken
driveshaft cost several minutes. Martin Prokop, WRC 2 winner Pontus Tidemand
and Nicolas Fuchs completed the leaderboard.
Rain on the previous night had
upped the jeopardy, resulting in drivers being faced with muddy, low-grip
stages on the final day of the event.
Meeke pushed hard from the
moment the rally began, building up a lead of over one minute by the end of the
second day. His recent absence from the Championship didn’t seem to be an
issue, as he was able to use his road position to his advantage, consistently
clearing stages quickly and without drama while other drivers were hindered by
punctures and damage from the unforgiving roads.
His pace lessened over the
final two days in the name of preserving the car and ensuring he made to the
finish (he crashed out of this event last year) but the gap would still prove
too big to close for his rivals. He completed the rally in 3:59:01.0. The win
is the second of Meeke’s career and also his first in Portugal.
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