Slender lead for Volkswagen driver Sébastien Ogier in Portugal
80 kilometres against the clock, just 119 metres advantage: Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia (F/F) hold a slender lead at the Rally Portugal in their Volkswagen Polo R WRC. Also among the front-runners are their team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), who ended day one in Portugal just 11.4 seconds behind Ogier and Ingrassia in third place.

Tyre selection for the first five of the rally’s 15 special stages added to the excitement at the fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). Only 24 tyres can be used per rally, with Michelin providing two different compounds. Only the next two days of rallying will ultimately reveal who played their cards right. Ogier and Ingrassia were the only duo to opt for more softs than hard tyres on surfaces that were at times damp, at times dry, putting their faith in Ogier’s outstanding ability to look after his tyres. It was a decision that paid off – for now at least. Their team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila were also successful on the harder compound.

Andreas Mikkelsen and Mikko Markkula (N/FIN), at the wheel of the third Polo R WRC, which was making its first competitive outing, lost a lot of time due to a leak in the power steering’s hydraulic loop. However, their Polo R WRC will be back to full strength when it lines up on Saturday morning.

Quotes, Day One of the Rally Portugal

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #7
“We made a cautious start to the morning and opted for a mixture of hard and soft tyres to start with. We switched to all hard tyres from the second stage on. I felt happier the second time we took on the morning’s two stages. We are happy with third place and our goal is to defend our position in the top three. The competition and the stages will both be even more testing from tomorrow onwards. However, I have a few ideas as to how we can improve the car’s chassis set-up for tomorrow.”

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #8
“It was a good day for us, even though our tyre selection was not absolutely spot on. The soft tyres were only of benefit on this morning’s opening stage, when it was slippery. The rest of the stages, particularly the second stage, were brutal for the car. Physically, I still don’t feel one hundred per cent fit. Out on the stages I can, as far as possible, block it out. Now at the end of the day, however, I am noticing that I am not my usual self physically”

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“It is simply fantastic to drive this car. The Polo R WRC has a lot more power than the rally cars I have driven recently. The most important thing at this rally is to get used to that. For me, the key is to gain as much experience as possible. I think we have been on a steep learning curve, even just today, but have already improved dramatically when it comes to our speed. Unfortunately we did not have any power steering from one kilometre into the fourth special stage. We found a leak and managed to fix it in time for the final stage. Tomorrow we will be the first car out on the route, which will definitely not make things any easier. However, we are here to learn – and that goes with the territory.”

Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“The Rally Portugal is set to be really exciting over the coming days. With regard the results, both hard and soft tyres were the right choice. Only on Sunday will we know whether our decisions have paid off. With that in mind, I must once again compliment our drivers. With his economic driving style, Sébastien Ogier was able to open up a slender lead on primarily soft tyres. However, the hard tyres were by no means a poor choice – as shown by the times and position of Jari-Matti Latvala. Andreas Mikkelsen lost time today due to a leak in the power steering loop. However, it is still possible for him to gain as much competitive experience as possible: by tomorrow we will once again be able to provide him with a superbly prepared Polo R WRC.”

And then there was …

… Carlos Sainz, who celebrates his 51st birthday today.

And then there was also …

… another important appointment for “El Matador”. Along with his former co-driver Luis Moya, the two-time World Rally Champion and “Dakar” winner with Volkswagen – now supporting the Wolfsburg-based WRC team in an advisory role – was eagerly awaiting the draw for the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League. Sainz, who was born in Madrid and is an active member of Real Madrid, had one eye on his team, while Luis Moya was looking out for their big rivals. The 52-year-old, who is looking after Volkswagen guests during WRC events, is an avid fan of Barcelona – and is also a football commentator for Spanish radio station Cadena CER. Real Madrid will play Borussia Dortmund in the last four, with Barcelona taking on Bayern Munich. The first games are scheduled for 23 and 24 April, with the return matches taking place on 30 April and 01 May – at the same time as the Rally Argentina.

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