The Hyundai of Thierry Neuville and the privateer Fiesta WRC of Mads Ostberg are the joint leaders of the Vodafone Rally de Portugal after the spectator stage at Lousada Rally Cross Track.
The first day’s only stage was a treat for the thousands of spectators who witnessed Neuville and Ostberg both set a time of 2m 36.6 to share lead heading into the real rally tests tomorrow.
The two held a very slender 0.1 second lead from Neuville’s Hyundai team-mate Hayden Paddon who in turn held a more comfortable 0.3 second gap to Rally Argentina runner-up Elfyn Evans in fourth.
Dani Sordo‘s fifth fastest time meant that all three of the Hyundais were in the top five of the leader board, but M-Sport are also well placed as Sébastien Ogier rounds out the top six, just 0.2 seconds behind.
Both Citroen and Toyota appeared to be off the pace on the short 3.36 km stage with Stéphane Lefebvre and Jari-Matti Latvala quickest for their respective makes both 1.5 seconds behind the leader.
In WRC2 Andreas Mikkelsen, who finished second overall for VW on last year’s event, got off to a flying start in his Skoda, he was 1.2 seconds faster than anybody in the category on his way to the 14th fastest stage time.
M-Sport’s Teemu Suninen was second fastest 0.8 seconds ahead of WRC2 championship leader Pontus Tidemand in his Skoda.
Britain’s Gus Greensmith was fourth fastest in the brand new Ford Fiesta R5 on his second appearance for M-Sport this season and 0.8 seconds faster than team leader Éric Camilli.
In WRC3 Jakub Brzeziński was quickest in his Citroen DS3 R3T a massive 3.9 seconds ahead of Nicolas Ciamin in his Ford Fiesta R2.
In the WRC Trophy, Martin Prokop on his first WRC event in 2017, was quickest in his old spec Ford Fiesta WRC setting a time 6 seconds faster than the Citroen DS3 WRC of Jean-Michel Raoux, with category championship leader Valeriy Gorban rounding out the category in third.
While spectator stages such as this rarely win you the rally, they can certainly end it as WRC2 front runner Hubert Ptaszek found out.
His Skoda Fabia R5 lost a wheel on the stage after making contact with the barriers, retiring for the day and severely denting his hopes of a good finish in WRC2.