Kris Meeke was the man to beat at the fifth round of the 2016 FIA WRC, Rallye de Portugal. He became the fourth different winner of the season, making a return after missing the last two rounds in Argentina and Mexico. Meeke who was driving a Citroen DS3 took the lead on Friday and drove in a masterful way before clinching his first WRC win since Argentina last year.
Volkswagen scored a double podium thanks to the second place finish by Andreas Mikkelsen and a strong third for championship leader, Sebastien Ogier. Mikkelsen made a few changes to his VW Polo R WRC before winning the first two stages today. Ogier had a rough time opening the stages as usual, he suffered two punctures today and with just one spare tire he had to limp to the finish line after topping the other tire with air.
Portugal had its fair share of drama with the highlight being Friday’s crash and burn, after Hayden Paddon and Ott Tanak crashed on the same location. Both cars caught fire but the drivers and co-drivers walked away unharmed. While the spectators and emergency response teams were able to save Tanak’s car from burning entirely, the same could not be said for Paddon’s Hyundai i20 WRC which was reduced to a shell by the fire. The afternoon stages were cancelled as the crash section was filled with smoke from the flames.
Elsewhere, Dani Sordo claimed fourth after a sub-cautious drive in the Hyundai i20. He had snatched second from Ogier at one point but a puncture cost him time and ultimately dropping him behind the Frenchman again. Fifth place went to Eric Camilli in his Ford Fiesta RS who led Jari-Matti Latvala in a VW Polo R. Latvala had to drive with a broken power steering on Friday which largely cost him time through the sections.
Seventh place went to Mads Ostberg who also had his fair share of troubles in the Ford Fiesta RS due to a broken driveshaft. Next was Martin Prokop who led the first WRC 2 car of Pontus Tidemand and Nicolas Fuchs also from WRC 2 to round off the top ten.
Ogier currently leads the championship with 96 points away from Paddon with 57 points, Ostberg with 52, Mikkelsen with 48 and Sordo with 44 points.
Italy is the next stop for the WRC drivers where Rally Italia Sardegna is scheduled to take place between June 9 and 12.
[Photos by Ricardo Oliveira, @World, Bruno Fernandes, Gábor Béres]