Neuville shakes off Chile crash to go fastest in Portugal warm-up

by Vince Pettit
Thiery Neuville - 2019 Vodafone Rallye de Portugal

Thierry Neuville bounced back from his crash in Chile to top the shakedown ahead of the Vodafone Rally de Portugal, denying Kris Meeke the fastest time by just a tenth of a second.

The Belgium suffered a huge crash at Copec Rally Chile three weeks ago, destroying the front of his Hyundai i20 and leaving him on crutches with a leg injury.

He showed no signs of the incident slowing him down as he topped the 4.6km Paredes test, setting his fastest time of 3:02.1 on his third run through the stage.

“I’m feeling OK. Still a little bit of pain but when I’m driving and the helmet is on everything is fine,” said Neuville to WRC.com.

“Friday’s stages are new so it might be an additional challenge for everybody with new pace notes. They are more challenging stages due to the fact they are a little narrower in some places and quite twisty in some sections. It will be a tough day,” he added.

Kris Meeke completed four runs through the stage to end with a time of 3:02.2 in his Toyota Yaris WRC ahead of M-Sport’s Teemu Suninen who will be looking to repeat his podium finish that he picked up 12 months ago in Portugal.

Sebastian Ogier - 2019 Vodafone Rallye de Portugal
Credit: Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

Ott Tänak was an early pacesetter on his first of three runs through the stage, recording a time of 3:02.7, a time that Sebastien Loeb matched on his fourth run.

Dani Sordo rounded out the top six places, all covered by less than one second ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala and Esapekka Lappi in seventh and eighth.

Elfyn Evans lost some time due to a power steering issue on his first run through the shakedown, the Welshman was forced to return to the service park where the issue was looked at before returning to complete two more runs, recording a time of 3:03.8.

WRC2 Pro championship leader Gus Greensmith matched Evans fastest time ahead of his debut in WRC machinery after being handed an opportunity to impress at the top by the M-Sport team.

In WRC2 Pro it was Kalle Rovanperä who was fastest with a time of 3:10.1 ahead of Jan Kopecký, Mads Østberg, and Łukasz Pieniążek.

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