Andreas Mikkelsen lead home a Volkswagen Motorsport 1-2-3 in a repeat performance of the morning shakedown as the rally crews took on SS1 of Rally de Portugal.
Thousands of fans were in attendance to view the 3.36km super special page which saw the WRC debut for the Skoda R5 Fabia.
The first upset of the say saw Lorenzo Bertelli bring home his Fiesta RS WRC 0.6 seconds quicker that M-Sport driver Ott Tanak in equal machinery. “We did quite a big mistake [in a hairpin] but it’s okay.” said Bertelli. “We had some mixed tyres so a bit so-and-so in places but a good feeling,” added Tanak.
Robert Kubica made his WRC return after sitting out Rally Argentina and beat Hyundai’s Hayden Paddon in the head-to-head. “All good – it’s been a long break for me – three months since Mexico – so not easy to get used to a new car on gravel. For sure it will not be easy but we will try.” said Kubica after the stage.
Mikkelsen would soon be up and against M-Sport’s Elfyn Evans and made it look easy as finised 3.3 seconds ahead of the Welshman. “It was great fun, a great way to kick off the rally. A clean stage but really dusty and hard to see in places.” said Mikkelsen.
Rally Argentina winner Kris Meeke was up against Thierry Neuville, who beat the Citroen driver home by 0.1 seconds. “Everybody is playing a game here to try and save their tyres. I’ve got to be happy to finish one-tenth off Thierry.” said Meeke.
Jari-Matti Latvala would manage a time to go second fastest , shortly before his world champion team-mate Sebastien Ogier took his place to secure a VW 1-2-3.
Elsewhere there was excitement for the marshals as Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari‘s car sprung a fuel leak; a short fire and plenty of fire extinguishers later and the situation was under control.
Toyota-back Eric Camili suffered bad luck when he hit the wall on the first corner of the circuit, losing two wheels in the contact.
The rally restarts from Matosinhos, near Porto, tomorrow morning for the first of three days of action.