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Portugal (P,A) - 24-27 Mar 11

Posted: April 1, 2011 2:20 PM - 5538 Hits

Round 3 - 2011 World Rally Championship
P - Production Championship
A - WRC Academy


Posted: April 1, 2011 2:20 PM

n a very challenging Vodafone Rally de Portugal, the FERM Power Tools World Rally Team finished for the first time in the top ten in their Ford Fiesta RS WRC. As a result both driver Dennis Kuipers and co-driver Frederic Miclotte scored their first point. Also for the FIA manufacturers’ championship table, FERM WRT scored two points.

"To score points for both Fred and I so early in the season and in such a tough rally, is just the greatest feeling!" says a delighted Kuipers "We have fought to achieve this result. It was the toughest rally of my life. "

Co-driver Miclotte won a point in the navigators ranking. "I am very happy with the points, especially how we did this after Mexico. It was such a difficult rally - there is not a scratch on the car and we are very pleased with the result we’ve achieved. "

The rally in the hills around Faro is described as the toughest gravel rally in Europe. The stages are a mix of fast and slow parts and all very technical. This in combination with the rough gravel roads a damaged suspension or a flat tyre was always a clear risk.

The FERM Power Tools World Rally Team endured the rock-hard rally 385 kilometers without any problems. Kuipers: "On Saturday we had a moment where we narrowly escaped a flat tyre. We were lucky at that instance "

The FERM World Rally Team earned ninth place in the FIA Manufacturers Championship. With the four points from Sweden and the two from Portugal, the team has now 6 points and is eighth in the overall standings.

Fisher scores on FIA WRC Academy debut

Posted: March 28, 2011 12:39 PM

Alastair Fisher has begun his FIA WRC Academy campaign with a points finish on Vodafone Rally of Portugal. In doing so, Fisher was able to carry out his mission of completing all 13 stages that made up the opening round of the all-new series to gain crucial experience for the future.

The 22-year-old was tackling the demanding gravel event, regarded as the toughest loose-surface rally on the world championship calendar, for the first time but excelled with a near-faultless performance in his Ford Fiesta R2.

He had built a lead of more than one minute, courtesy of two stage wins, heading into the penultimate stage of the event when a rare error caused him to leave the road and roll. Fortunately, some of the thousands of spectators lining the route were able to haul his car back onto its wheels. After a delay of more than five minutes, Fisher and co-driver Daniel Barritt were able to reach the finish in a strong fifth place.

“We were a kilometre from the end of the second last stage when we came up to a medium speed right-hand bend,” said Fisher, who hails from Trillick in County Tyrone. “It wasn’t a bad corner but I just got distracted for a split second by some of the spectators waving. I missed my braking point and slid straight on. It was very slow speed stuff but I caught a small tree, which tipped us onto our roof.”

Damage to the Fiesta’s windscreen meant it was virtually impossible for Fisher to see where he was going, which also compromised his time on the rally’s final stage. Despite the late woe, Fisher said he had gained a huge amount of experience.

“We’ve been badly punished for one mistake but we leave here with lots of experience, some good points and two fastest stage times,” said Fisher, who is equal fourth in the WRC Academy Cup standings. “The next event is in Sardinia in early May and we go there confident that we have the pace to compete at the front.”

At the finish in Faro on Saturday night, co-driver Barritt – a veteran of more than 50 world championship rallies – praised Fisher’s performance.

“His driving has been fantastic all week even though he’s come to a very difficult rally with virtually no WRC experience at all and taken on some really tough competition,” said Barritt. “He’s excelled really but it’s just unfortunate he’s lost out with one small mistake. He’ll come back strong from this because he knows he’s got the pace to win and that’s the good thing. He’s proved once again that he’s got lots of potential.”

Fisher’s disappointment handed victory to Egon Kaur, a 23-year-old from Estonia. Sweden’s Victor Henriksson was second with Germany’s Christian Riedemann third.

Anguish for Breen on Academy Opener

Posted: March 28, 2011 12:11 PM

Pure and utter disappointment is the only way to describe the feelings of Craig Breen as he lay stranded mid stage on Saturday afternoon during World Rally Portugal. The Irish driver appeared to have done the hard work, he had built up a fifth six second lead and only four stages lay between him and his biggest career win. "As I reached the corner everything was fine but then I realised I was to fast and couldn't scrub off the speed, the car slipped in over the bank and my worst fears were realised, we were off the road. I thought I could drive downward from where we had gone off and reenter the road but as I moved forward it became clear there was no way back and my rally was over." afterward back in service Craig said "I'm very disappointed but I must put this behind me and move on. The weekend has been a learning curve and I must take the positives away from the event. We had five fastest stage times and we now know what our rivals are capable of."

The opening round of the FIA WRC Academy began with Thursday evening's super special in Portugal's capital city Lisbon. Craig started his account slotting in at second overall, .6 of a sec of top spot on the 3.4 Km tarmac circuit.

On Friday morning as the rally returned to its base in the South and the gravel stages near Faro it was Breen who showed his class. The first full day of the academy was made up of a double loop of three tests. The Irish driver quickly put his knowledge of the Algarve stages to use, opening a gap of 28 sec on the opening loop and also recording three fastest stage times in the process. During stage two Craig noticed a problem with his Fiesta's gearbox but this did not deter him from pushing on. The offending gearbox was replaced in service but the car was one minute late leaving and the crew sustained a ten second penalty.

Back on the stages again, Breen picked up where he'd left off posting his four fastest time of the day on stage five. Stage six was a different story, Breen was only one hundred of second off the quickest time but an engine mount had snapped. Craig and Gareth made temporary repairs before entering the final stage of day one. Over that final test Craig did loose thirty two seconds to the stage winner and his overall lead had been cut from, 1.06:08 to 48.4 sec but his objective had been reached, he was able to return to service and prepare for day two.

The final day's action saw another six stages being contested and Craig was where he wanted to be. “My plan was to pull out a big enough lead if there was a problem. We did have gearbox trouble yesterday morning and an engine mount broke over the afternoon stages but Apart from that it was a very good day.” Stage eight (Almodovar 1), Craig was seven seconds off the pace but only lost 3.1 to his nearest rival as the Irish driver looked to be taking a sensible approach. Breen set his fifth fastest time of the weekend on SS 9 and extended his advantage to 56 seconds.

So on to that ill-fated stage ten. Craig had only got a short distance into the stage when he slid wide and was off the road, "We quickly surveyed that there was no damage sustained to the car and I thought I could drive downward from where we had gone off and reenter the road but as I moved forward it became clear there was no way back and my rally was over.”

As Craig did record five fastest stage times he receives one championship point for each and his account for the year is underway. His next outing is scheduled for next weekend at the Bulldog International Rally in the North Wales, round two of the British Rally Championship and the FIA WRC Academy resumes with round two in early May with the Rally of Sardinia.

Clean sweep for the Citroën DS3 WRCs

Posted: March 28, 2011 12:06 PM

A year after scoring their first victory in the FIA World Rally Championship in Portugal, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia racked up win number two in the same event. The Citroën Total World Rally Team crew came first in the Algarve after driving a perfect race. The DS3 WRC scored the first double of its fledgling career thanks to Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena, who are dead-heating with Mikko Hirvonen for the lead in in the drivers’ world title chase. The Citroën Total World Rally Team started the third and last day of Rally Portugal with a lead of more than four minutes over its rivals, and controlled the end of the race.

Over the whole of the 31,04 kilometers making up Santana de Serra 1 (SS15), the two crews got down to validating their pace notes to prepare for the second passage rewarded by the points for the Power Stage.

They spent the rest of the morning nursing their cars and tyres until the start of the final run.
Beyond the fact of consolidating the expected double of the Citroën DS3 WRCs, the aim of the last day was to score a few additional points in the final stage. The latter began in slightly damp conditions and the line dried out as the cars drove through. Petter Solberg led for a long time, but finally it was Sébastien Loeb who set the fastest time. Jari-Matti Latvala came second and third-placed Sébastien Ogier was unable to knock the seven-time world champion off his perch!

When the Citroën Total World Rally returned to the Estadio Algarve, they celebrated this clean sweep and Ogier’s third victory in the world championship from his team-mate, Loeb. The winner was congratulated by the whole team with whom he shared his joy:
“It’s been a perfect weekend. We controlled our first day well and then we pushed at the right moment. It’s a telling result for the whole team with the double and the points in the Power Stage. After six months without a win I was starting to get a bit edgy. I hope it’s the start of a good series. The points we’ve bagged today will help us relaunch our championship challenge after our disappointment in Rally Mexico. I’d like to thank the team for all their hard work. I’m as happy for them as I am for myself!”

Sébastien Loeb finished second and scored twenty points this weekend thanks to his bonus in the last stage. This means that he now dead-heats for the leads in the Drivers’ World Championship with Mikko Hirvonen: “Our victory hopes were dashed yesterday when we lost thirty seconds in the dust thrown up by Mikko’s car,”

Seb repeated.
“Second was the best we could hope for. I knew it wouldn’t be easy to score the three bonus points in the Power Stage - but we did! It’s a positive result for us and for the whole team. These points will be very precious as the championship looks like being a very closely-fought one.”

Frédéric Banzet, the Citroën General Manager was present with the team during the rally, and he expressed his delight when he congratulated his crews:
“I remember a young driver who was over the moon when he won his first rally here a year ago. This year, Sébastien Ogier has taken on a whole new dimension that he’s confirmed with this magnificent victory. Sébastien Loeb, who was unlucky with the rally conditions, has helped the Citroën DS3 WRC to score its first double. Bravo to the whole team and the results of our two crews are crucial for all Automobiles Citroën’s collaborators. We hope this one-two finish will be the first of many!”


Posted: March 28, 2011 11:57 AM

The opening round of the all-new Pirelli-supported FIA WRC Academy concluded on Vodafone Rally de Portugal on Saturday evening (March 26) and signalled the emergence of several stars of the future.

Following almost 200 kilometres of demanding stage action on the gruelling gravel roads of Portugal’s Algarve region, it was Estonian Egon Kaur who shone brightest by guiding his Ford Fiesta R2, equipped with Pirelli’s K4 gravel tyre, to victory by a slender margin of 16.4 seconds over Swedish driver Victor Henriksson.

Kaur was one of 18 competitors, including this year’s six Pirelli Star Drivers, who started the rally’s opening superspecial stage on closed roads in the capital Lisbon on Thursday afternoon in front of a crowd of 40,000 fans.

After celebrating his victory in Faro on Saturday evening, the 23-year-old Kaur said:
“The Pirelli tyres were incredible. I couldn’t believe how they lasted so well and took so much punishment on some very tough roads. Honestly, we were driving over some really big rocks and there is always a risk of a puncture in these situations. But they just kept going and were fantastic. We must say thank you to Pirelli.”

Kaur won the event, but there had been numerous changes of leader, with Ireland’s Craig Breen and Britain’s Alastair Fisher both looking like potential winners before they hit trouble.

WRC Academy regulations restricted each driver to 18 tyres for the entire event and the four-hour pre-rally test. Of the 360 tyres supplied by Pirelli only four suffered deflations through the entire event.

Matteo Braga, Pirelli’s senior rallying tyre engineer, said:
“I was really pleased with how the drivers managed their tyres and drove with a lot of intelligence on what is a very difficult rally. They understood the importance of strategy by changing the tyres and swapping them round to ensure they provided optimum performance throughout the rally.”

The top Pirelli Star Driver on the event was Australian Brendan Reeves, who brought his Fiesta R2 home in fourth place on his first rally in Europe.

Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery said:
“What a fantastic first round for the Pirelli Star Drivers and the WRC Academy! There has been close competition, some great driving and lots of drama. We’re delighted with the way the Pirellis have worked. We’ve seen from some of the other tyre manufacturers on this event that these conditions have tested the products to the maximum, but the K4 has been exceptional. This tyre is commercially available and doesn’t have anything like the strengthening we put into the Scorpion, the tyre used so successfully by all competitors for the last three years in the WRC, but it has demonstrated tremendous performance and durability for the last two days.”

As well as Kaur and Henriksson, the inaugural WRC Academy podium also included German Christian Riedemann.

The next event for the Pirelli-supplied WRC Academy will be Rally d’Italia-Sardegna from May 5-8.

Petter Solberg and Kimi Räikkönen in the points

Posted: March 28, 2011 11:55 AM

Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson, who were the best performers at the end of the Rally of Portugal, led the group of three Citroën DS3 WRCs that were entered by private teams and run with the back-up of Citroën Racing Technologies. They finished sixth, one place ahead of Kimi Räikkönen and Kaj Lindström in seventh. On their first appearance of the season, , Peter van Merksteijn Jr and Eddy Chevaillier reached the finish.

Petter Solberg was extremely competitive from the very beginning, but lost all chance of winning at the end of the opening day. A double puncture on the front wheels meant that he was forced to retire from the opening day. The former World Champion re-started the following morning at an impressive pace, setting six fastest stage times and earning himself the title of best performer. By the finish he managed to climb back to sixth and score eight points in the World Rally Championship for drivers.

On his second Rally of Portugal, and his first appearance on gravel this year, Kimi Räikkönen drove a consistent rally from start to finish, steering clear of mistakes. He finished in seventh overall. Peter van Merksteijn Jr made his Citroën DS3 WRC debut in Portugal. On his return to competition, the Dutch driver concentrated on getting to know his new car. Only a small engine problem after crossing a watersplash on the second day prevented him from driving all the stages. After rejoining the action on Sunday, he eventually finished in 22nd place.

Petter Solberg (Petter Solberg World Rally Team):
« I’m disappointed not to have been able to fight for victory. After our punctures on Sunday, we needed to attack in order to get sixth place on the very last stage.
These are very important points, but I’m aiming for better results. I promise that I’m never giving up though! »

Kimi Räikkönen (Ice1Racing):
« Apart from a puncture on Friday afternoon and a bit of time lost in the dust of another competitor yesterday, we had a rally with no problems. We learnt a lot about the Citroën DS3 WRC on our first gravel rally with this new car. As the stages went on, we made progress with the set-up and I think my driving has improved as well throughout the three days. It’s been a valuable less and I hope to pick up my pace on the next rally. »

Peter van Merksteijn Junior (Van Merksteijn Motorsport):
« I can draw a very positive conclusion from my first experience with the Citroën DS3 WRC even though I think I was a bit unlucky. We had a small problem on the second day that deprived us of important kilometres as we were learning the car. The objective of this rally was to get to know the car. I’m sure I can go quicker, but that will just come with experience. »

Benoit Nogier (Head of Citroën Racing Technologies):
« Petter Solberg once more showed his competitiveness by fighting with the factory cars in his privately-run Citroën DS3 WRC. Again, it was sheer bad luck that prevented him from recording a better result. Here, that was down to the tyres. We hope that this is at least now an end to his bad luck and that he will go on to achieve success on the next events. Kimi Räikkönen drove a consistent rally. He already showed his reliability in Sweden and he continued that pattern here. Having found a better set-up at the end of the first day, he made a lot of progress. That’s very encouraging for the future. Finally, we had a technical problem with Peter van Merksteijn Jr’s car, which cost him valuable kilometres. He showed a very good frame of mind and is already at the level of the other drivers who are learning their cars. We’ll keep making steady progress with him, step by step, as the season goes on. »


Posted: March 28, 2011 11:51 AM

Britain’s Matthew Wilson scored his best ever Portuguese result this weekend after he and fellow Cumbrian Scott Martin finished fifth overall in their M-Sport Stobart run Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

The 24-year-old’s previous best finish at Rally de Portugal was sixth and this weekend’s result is Wilson’s first top-five finish since last year’s Jordan Rally, proving that Britain’s top WRC driver is adapting well to driving Ford’s new Fiesta RS WRC.

Throughout Friday’s repeat loop of three stages totalling 132.41 km, Wilson and team-mate Henning Solberg battled it out for fifth position and only 4.7 seconds separated the Fiesta RS WRC team-mates as Solberg held fifth at the end of the day.

However, after a quick time on Saturday’s opening stage, Wilson moved up to fifth – 7.5 seconds ahead of his team-mate. Then on Stage 11, Solberg’s Fiesta RS WRC suffered power steering issues which was closely followed by a puncture on Stage 12, losing the Norwegian three minutes and widening the gap between the two drivers. Despite a difficult afternoon, Solberg and co-driver Ilka Minor battled on and pulled into the end of a difficult second day sixth overall.

Wilson moved further up the WRC leaderboard and into a career-best fourth place when Mikko Hirvonen suffered problems with rear suspension on the day’s closing 22.56 km stage. Wilson finished fourth at 2007’s Rally Japan but fourth place would be the best ever result with current co-driver Scott Martin.

By the end of the second day, the Briton was just over 60 seconds from a podium position. Sunday proved relatively trouble-free for Wilson and a cautious driving approach consolidated Wilson’s fifth place finish.

Disaster struck for Solberg on Sunday’s penultimate stage when the Norwegian encountered problems with his turbo, dropping him from sixth place and down into ninth overall.

Mads Østberg was looking to secure his third consecutive top-five result in Portugal. However, during Thursday evening’s Super Special in Lisbon, the 23-year-old tore the front right wheel off his Fiesta RS WRC after an impact. The loose wheel hit a spectator in the crowd who was taken to hospital for precautionary checks but was later released with no reported injuries.

Østberg and co-driver Jonas Andersson were dealt another dose of bad luck when their car suffered from a broken gearbox 300m into Friday’s opening stage, forcing the disappointed duo to retire.

The Scandinavian pairing returned to the rally on Saturday morning where they set two top-five stage times but encountered more bad luck when they suffered from power steering problems on Stage 11 and elected to retire.

Østberg returned to the rally on Sunday to try and gain as much experience in the Fiesta RS WRC as possible ahead of Jordan Rally. The Norwegian battled back, showing an incredible show of speed including a second-fastest time on Stage 16 to finish 31st overall.

Matthew Wilson said:
“We found a comfortable pace on the first stage this morning but then we backed off - I just didn’t want to take any risks. If we’d known Mikko [Hirvonen] had problems on the same stage, then we probably would have pushed harder but it was difficult to know how to play it. I think the incident in 2009 was on the back of my mind when we were running fifth on the final day and then I crashed but I’m happy with how everything has gone generally. We were able to increase the pace when we needed to and then yesterday we had the luxury of playing things a bit cooler after Henning has his puncture. The result has made me really determined to try and secure more WRC rounds later on in the season and this is what Scott and I will be concentrating on over the next couple of months.”

Henning Solberg said:
“We’ve had a lot of problems this weekend but that is how it is – I wonder when I can get some luck? But we have made it to the end and scored points for the team so that is the main thing. There was a lot of humidity in the stages this morning and the grip was constantly changing – it was difficult but made even harder as we had some power steering problems on Stage 15. We had Kimi [Räikkönen] close behind us this afternoon and I wanted to push but then we had a problem with our turbo which lost us time and cost us three positions. For sure, it is disappointing to have more problems here but hopefully at the next rally, I can go flat out. You will see me on the podium soon.”

Mads Østberg said:
“It’s been one trouble after another this weekend but today has been going much better. We seem to have a set-up that works very well on the car and we are trying to improve our speed all the time. At the next event, we want to battle with the factory drivers and we will be ready for it. I have been using today like an extended test - to try and get rid of all the troubles and to find the perfect set-up. But I wanted to give it a try on the Power Stage this afternoon so for that stage I wanted to push to try and extra points – we had nothing to lose really and I think our times are getting closer to the top drivers so I have to be happy with that.”

M-Sport Stobart Ford Team Prinicpal Malcolm Wilson said:
“It’s been a weekend of mixed fortunes for the M-Sport Stobart Ford World Rally Team. Matthew has worked on his pace over the weekend and his top-five finish is well deserved. I feel very sorry for Mads – it was a difficult weekend for him but at least he was able to return each day to gain valuable experience in the car and I have no doubt that he will be able to battle for another podium position soon as his pace is very impressive. Henning has also had his fair share of problems this weekend but the commitment and pace he has shown on gravel will be sure to help him for Jordan next month. It’s good for the team that Henning has picked up some points as it has secured the squad’s third place in the FIA Manufacturers’ Championship standings.”


Posted: March 28, 2011 11:50 AM

Argentina’s Federico Villagra celebrated a return to points-scoring form at Vodafone Rally de Portugal this weekend after finishing eighth and securing six well-earned points for his Munchi’s Ford World Rally Team.

Villagra and co-driver Jose Diaz had problems with intermittent misfire in their M-Sport run Ford Fiesta RS WRC on Friday’s opening 64.57 km loop but by the end of Stage 4, the South American pairing were placed 11th overall. During Service A the team altered the set-up and lowered the ride-height and the Argentine driver reported better car handling for the repeat afternoon pass.

The changes made during Service A were evident in Villagra’s performance as by the end of Stage 7, the Munchi’s Ford driver had climbed the WRC leaderboard to eighth place, 1.2 seconds ahead of former Formula One Champion Kimi Räikkönen and just 48.2 seconds off claiming seventh place.

Saturday consisted of a repeat loop of three gravel speed tests in the hills above the Algarve coastline. Overnight rain dampened the roads but they quickly dried to leave a layer of loose gravel which proved troublesome for many of the WRC front-runners. However, Villagra adopted a mature driving approach to tackle the tricky conditions, finding a good pace where the battle for seventh place with Räikkönen continued.

By the end of the second day, Räikkönen led Villagra by 14.8 seconds but with four stages on Sunday remaining including a repeat pass of the event’s longest stage of the rally – Santana de Serra – the Argentine was keen to push for seventh place.

Sunday morning, however, saw the gap between Villagra and Räikkönen extend to 22.1 seconds as Villagra reported cold tyres and slippery road conditions. A trouble-free afternoon followed and the nine-time Argentine Rally Champion pulled into the final service at the Algarve Stadium eighth overall.

Federico Villagra said:
“We have been pushing today to try and catch up with Kimi but the tyres were cold on the first stage and the conditions so slippery that we struggled to find a good pace. It’s been a tough rally but we’ve enjoyed ourselves this weekend and it was important to get some more time in the car after our incident in Mexico. I think we’ve found a good set-up at the rally and I’m feeling more and more confident with the car after each event. We’ve seen a lot of accidents this weekend and today we wanted to concentrate on getting to the end and leaving with some points for the championship. Now I will go home to prepare for the first round of my home championship which was supposed to be last weekend but was cancelled – I hope the experience will help even more for when I return to the WRC in Jordan next month.”

DMACK Praises Michelin For Competitive Spirit In Portugal

Posted: March 28, 2011 11:48 AM

Michelin’s competitive spirit has helped DMACK Tyres continue to lead the FIA Production World Rally Championship (PWRC) after a podium finish in Portugal with Martin Semerad.

Despite a tough weekend amid harsh conditions at Rally Portugal, the third round of the FIA World Rally Championship, the DMACK Tyres equipped car of Semerad claimed third position in PWRC in what was the sternest test so far for the Chinese tyre manufacturer.

Rally Portugal has traditionally been tough on rubber with its hard-based, abrasive roads, littered with sharp rocks, delivering some of the highest rates of tyre wear in the entire championship.

It was these conditions on the mountainous Portuguese roads which saw DMACK’s nominated tyre for this event, the hard compound DMG G2, suffer from high wear on leg one of the event.

This led DMACK to request permission from the event Stewards for the three priority drivers on its tyres to use the medium compound G4 for the remainder of the rally.

In the interests of competition, this change was approved by Michelin – the only other authorised tyre supplier to the WRC – and all the PWRC drivers on the event.

Semerad, winner of the opening PWRC round in Sweden earlier this year, struggled with high tyre wear on Friday’s six stages – which comprised 132km.

But after transferring to the other compound at the start of leg two he was able to make it to the finish. He benefitted from other competitors’ misfortunes when many of the leaders experienced problems in the tough conditions.

Semerad was down in seventh at the start of leg two but a series of accidents and retirements among the PWRC runners saw the young Czech move up the standings to third by the end of the gruelling 385km event. The result sees him lead the PWRC series by 15 points.

Abu Dhabi drivers Majed Al Shamsi and Bader Al Jabri also finished eighth and ninth respectively in PWRC using DMACK tyres.

Dick Cormack, DMACK Tyres motorsport director, said:
“It has been a difficult event but we must thank the Stewards, Michelin and the other PWRC drivers for approving the change of compound and enabling our crews to complete the event. On a positive note, the medium G4 has proved competitive on what have been some really abrasive stages and we still have a DMACK car at the top of the PWRC standings. The WRC provides the toughest off-road rally action in the world and that’s why DMACK is here.”

Martin Semerad said:
“We’ve had two good results now but I’m not satisfied with this event. We weren’t really in a position to fight and I’d like to try and be a bit faster next time. The medium tyre worked much better and it felt good when we changed to it – we were able to push normally with it.”

Ford retains WRC lead as Latvala scores podium in Portugal

Posted: March 28, 2011 11:45 AM

Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team retained the lead of both the manufacturers' and drivers' standings in the FIA World Rally Championship in Portugal today. Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila's third place in Rally de Portugal and fourth for team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen, both in Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Cars, preserved the team's clear lead in the manufacturers' table.

Hirvonen maintained his lead in the drivers' points after this third round of the 13-rally series. Latvala remains third in the standings after his third consecutive podium finish. He boosted his score by claiming bonus points for finishing second in this afternoon's Power Stage, the final speed test of the rally which was broadcast live on global television.

After visiting the capital city of Lisbon on Thursday for the opening special stage, competitors tackled three days of rocky and abrasive gravel roads in the hills above the Algarve coastline in the south. The 17 tests covered 385.37km, with sunshine on Friday giving way to overcast skies yesterday and spells of heavy rain today.

Latvala and Hirvonen ended the opening leg in first and second respectively, 25-year-old Latvala claiming a clean sweep of stage wins on Friday afternoon. A broken front right driveshaft and a puncture yesterday forced Latvala down to thirdm while team-mate Hirvonen slipped to fifth after a puncture and broken rear suspension.

Hirvonen climbed to fourth on this morning's opening stage, the first of four tests covering 104.86km, but slid back to fifth after a driveshaft broke on the next test. He regained fourth on the penultimate stage and, with no realistic chance of climbing further, both drivers focused their efforts on the opportunity to take bonus points in the Power Stage.

The 31.04km test was the longest and most difficult of the rally. Hirvonen's hopes of bonus points were dashed when a rear left shock absorber broke near the end. But Latvala was quick throughout and second fastest time earned the Finn two extra points.

"On the first pass through the stage this morning I improved my pace notes for the Power Stage, especially in the narrow and slippery corners that were made more tricky by the rain," said Latvala. "It was a tough stage and I paid close attention to my notes to ensure they were as good as they could be. I attacked really hard. I drove over a big rock and was sure the impact would puncture the tyre, but the rubber was strong and I escaped. I'm really happy with the extra points.

"It's my third podium in three rallies so far this year and I'm pleased with that consistency. After my problems yesterday, a podium is a fantastic result. I feel confident with the car and I know that we can continue to work with its development to improve it even further," he added.

Hirvonen, too, was satisfied with fourth after his earlier troubles. "This was the best result I could hope for after losing time yesterday and this morning. I wanted to take extra points in the Power Stage but it wasn't to be. I'm leaving Portugal still in the lead of the championship. It's close and exciting, and I'm sure it will remain that way for the rest of the season.

"I'm pleased with the performance of the Fiesta. It's only the third rally for the car and this is the roughest it has tackled. The speed is good and we need to continue working hard in our tests to improve the reliability," added the 30-year-old Finn.

Khalid Al Qassimi and Michael Orr finished 14th in the squad's third Fiesta RS WRC, scoring points for Team Abu Dhabi. They returned to action today after crashing out yesterday, and Orr completed the final day with two broken ribs from the impact.

Ford Abu Dhabi team director Malcolm Wilson reflected on a solid weekend. "It was a tough and demanding rally. The pace and performance of the car and drivers was excellent but we suffered technical issues which cost the chance to challenge for a win. However, we know we can address these before the next round. It was encouraging to see the positive attitude and feedback from our drivers in what was the first traditional gravel rally for the Fiesta RS WRC," he said.

Ford of Europe motorsport chief Gerard Quinn said:
"Coming to Portugal was a step into the unknown. It was the first regular gravel rally of the kind that forms the bulk of the championship and, as such, a clear indicator for the season ahead. It was a tough event, but the times confirmed the Fiesta RS WRC is fully competitive. We have work to do before the next event, but we are encouraged."

News from other Ford teams

M-Sport Stobart Ford World Rally Team's Matthew Wilson and Scott Martin were fifth, but team-mates Henning Solberg and Ilka Minor slipped from sixth to ninth with power steering and turbo problems. The team's third car of Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson was 31st. Munchi's Ford's Federico Villagra and Jose Diaz retained eighth and FERM Power Tools' Dennis Kuipers and Frederic Miclotte were 10th.

Eighteen identical Ford Fiesta R2 cars started the inaugural round of the FIA WRC Academy Cup. ICraig Breen and Alastair Fisher both led before crashing out, leaving Estonia's Egon Kaur to take victory.


Posted: March 28, 2011 11:43 AM

1 S Ogier/J Ingrassia (Citroen DS3 WRC)    4hr 10min 53.4sec
2 S Loeb/D Elena (Citroen DS3 WRC)    4hr 11min 25.2sec
3 J-M Latvala/M Anttila (Ford Fiesta RS WRC)  4hr 14min 15.5sec
4 M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC)  4hr 17min 09.7sec
5 M Wilson/S Martin (Ford Fiesta RS WRC)  4hr 18min 41.9sec
6 P Solberg/C Patterson (Citroen DS3 WRC)    4hr 21min 10.8sec
7 K Räikkönen/K Lindström (Citroen DS3 WRC)    4hr 21min 47.5sec
8 F Villagra/J Diaz (Ford Fiesta RS WRC)  4hr 22min 32.2sec
9 H Solberg/I Minor (Ford Fiesta RS WRC)  4hr 25min 09.8sec
10 D Kuipers/F Miclotte (Ford Fiesta RS WRC)  4hr 28min 48.0sec

Fisher heads to Portugal for WRC Academy debut

Posted: March 24, 2011 2:47 PM

Alastair Fisher will join 19 other young rising rally stars when he contests the opening event of the inaugural FIA WRC Academy on Rally of Portugal next week. Fisher, who has achieved considerable success in Britain and Ireland since taking up rallying, is embarking on his first World Rally Championship campaign this season as he looks to build the skills needed for a long-term career in the sport’s highest echelon.

At 22, Fisher is regarded as one of Britain’s brightest rallying prospects. However, he has only tackled one WRC rally to date so plans to spend 2011 gathering knowledge of the events and adapting to the rigours of a longer competition format. Speaking from his home in Trillick, County Tyrone, prior to making the trip to Portugal on Monday, Fisher said:
“My target is certainly to finish the rally and learn as much as I can in the process. Obviously with it being the first round it is hard to predict a result, but gauging my pace against the other drivers will be important. I am really looking forward to the challenge of competing on a rally like Portugal where everything will be new.”

Fisher is studying an Honours Degree in Construction, Engineering and Management at the University of Ulster in Jordanstown, Belfast, and has been combining his education with preparing for his WRC Academy debut.
“It’s been a busy few months,” said Fisher. “My rallying and my education are equally important and it’s made fitting in testing and practice events quite difficult. But I’m feeling ready and prepared and can’t wait to get started.”

Rally of Portugal gets underway with a stage through the streets of the capital Lisbon on the afternoon of Thursday March 24. Competitors then head back to the rally’s base in Faro in the country’s picturesque Algarve region for two days of competition on the undulating, medium-speed gravel stages that are characterised by their abrasive surface. While the bulk of the rally entrants will tackle the final day of the event on Sunday (March 27), Fisher and his Academy rivals will take part in a debrief and training day overseen by former world championship-winning co-driver, Robert Reid. During the session, they will get the opportunity to analyse their performances using data and video footage gathered from the previous two days with the intention of implementing any lessons learned on the next round of the series.

Although Fisher won’t get to sample the Portuguese stages until the reconnaissance gets underway this coming Tuesday, his Burnley-based co-driver Daniel Barritt has taken part on the event in the past.
“Daniel’s knowledge is going to be very important and I’ll be looking to take advantage of that,” said Fisher.

Q&A: Alastair Fisher
How have you prepared for your WRC Academy debut?
“Last week we had a three-day induction course at M-Sport in Cumbria, where all the Ford Fiesta R2s we will use this season are built. It was really useful because we got a really good idea of what was in store; got some good advice and we also got to drive the car.”

What was it like getting behind the wheel?
“We got around 20 minutes each at an airfield; Niall McShea [the former Production Car world rally champion] sat in with us to give us some tutoring and to assess how we were driving and using the car to its potential.”

But it wasn’t the first time you had driven the Fiesta R2 was it?
“We can only use our WRC Academy Fiestas on the six events we do so we’ve invested in a spare Fiesta to do testing and some rallies back home. We’ve competed in three rallies since the start of the year and won our class twice with a mechanical failure on the third rally. We also plan to do a short test this weekend.”

Do the Academy cars differ from the standard Fiesta R2s?
“The Academy cars have an upgraded sump guard and rear beam but are otherwise the same as the standard Fiesta R2.”

Craig Breen Rallying - WRC Portugal Event Preview

Posted: March 24, 2011 2:25 PM

The long wait is over and the first stage of the FIA WRC Academy is now only days away. Craig travelled to the Algarve on Friday, over the pasted week he has trained hard and now he just wants to get on that first Super Special in Lisbon.

“Last October seems along time ago now and with the Academy season not beginning until late March there has been a long gap but now I’m fully prepared and ready to begin my assault on the Academy Championship next weekend.”

Craig and Gareth carried out a full days testing on Saturday and covered over 130 Kms. Craig was very happy afterwards stating “I felt it important to get in a test session out here (In Portugal) as the stages are very specialised. Blind crests on the stages makes the event very tricky and we will be hoping to use our knowledge from 2009. Over the day we concentrated on car setup, tyres and our pacenotes. We were delighted with the days work and I’m now looking forward to carrying out a detailed recce.

For the first time in 37 years the rally visits the capital city of Lisbon for the events ceremonial start. The cars will be transported there on Thursday for the ceremony and opening speed test, before returning to Faro by the same means ahead of two days of gravel action.

The 2011 FIA WRC Academy Launch will take place in Lisbon next Thursday 24th March at 12 noon. The event will begin with a Q&A with guest speakers Marc de Jong (WRC Academy Principal), Michèle Mouton (FIA), Malcolm Wilson (M-Sport) and Matteo Braga (Pirelli), followed by a driver parade introducing the WRC Academy Class of 2011 before a buffet lunch.

Provisional Entry List

Posted: March 2, 2011 1:50 PM

Event Website / Rally Guide 1 / Details

Posted: January 2, 1990 3:01 PM

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