One of the stars of this year’s Rally New Zealand, Sebastien Ogier, was the fastest driver at the pre-event shakedown for Vodafone Rally de Portugal earlier today, with former World Rally Champion Petter Solberg his closest rival.
The four hour test – a prelude to this weekend’s rally – took place on a 5.03km gravel road at Vale de Judeu, 12km from the main Service Park near Faro. The same piece of road was used for Shakedown in 2009. Weather conditions were dry and sunny throughout, with a temperature peaking at 23 degrees Celsius.
“I know Shakedown isn’t important to the real rally but it’s good for the confidence to be fastest and we have a lot of confidence now,” said Ogier. “I found the car very good, like usual, and although we tried a couple of different set-ups we’ve ended up sticking with our usual one – there’s nothing new. The road was slippery and cleaning a lot; more than the proper stages I think. I was 16 seconds faster though on my fourth pass compared to my first – that’s more than three seconds per kilometre – so you can see the effect.”
Fellow Citroen C4 WRC driver Petter Solberg was closest to Ogier’s time, stopping the clock 1.3sec later, while Citroen team leader Sebastien Loeb was third. “It’s a challenging stage; maybe the most difficult of the rally!” said Loeb, “The surface is loose and abrasive, just like the actual stages, but the road is very fast and narrow. We tried out a few suspension adjustments but nothing major. Everything was fine.”
Vodafone Rally de Portugal gets underway this evening with the head-to-head Super Special stage in the Algarve Stadium. Crews will tackle the all-asphalt track in reverse-seeded order from 19h25hrs.
Red Bull-backed driver Hermann Gassner Jr is determined to score a top five finish in the Group N category on his return to the World Rally Championship in Portugal this weekend. In order to give himself every chance of doing well, he has driven his own reconnaissance car from his home in Germany to the rally base in Faro.
One of the greatest rally car drivers of all times, the 4 times world champion Juha Kankkunen, is driving again in the next Rally of Portugal, from the 27th to the 30th of May.
With the occasion of the revival event, with an entry of 27 historic cars, in bettween the modern world rally cars, the flying finnish will drive the number 1 Ford Escort Mk II build by ASM motorsport and supported by DMACK GRIPPA tyres.
Juha Kankkunen will have once again on his right hand side on of the most legendary co-drivers of all times, Nicky Grist, together now for this rally after some years away from the WRC events.
For sure the pair Juha Kankkunen – Nicky Grist in the WRC Portugese Rally 2010, will writte a few more pages of motorsport history in “The GRIPPA Escort”
The event will run in the south of Portugal, over a total of 383,46 km, 111,40 km of special stages all in gravel and 4 km in the super special stage in the Algarve Stadium.