Rally Portugal started on Thursday (30 May) in the scenic town of Coimbra. The first day of competition on Friday (31 May) featured the return to the famous Arganil region with six stages plus the show stage on the rallycross circuit of Lousada, in total covering roughly 90 kilometres.
Right from the start of its debut on world championship level, Kalle Rovanperä and Jonne Halttunen powered the new ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo into the lead of the WRC 2 Pro category. After winning the first three stages, a puncture during the fourth test cost them more than 40 seconds and also the lead. “The puncture came out of nowhere; I didn’t hit anything. The stages were much rougher than I expected, you cannot go flat out everywhere,” explained Kalle Rovanperä.
While Rovanperä’s teammate Jan Kopecký had a trouble-free run in the second ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo, the closest competitor of the ŠKODA works crews, Citroën driver Mads Østberg, dropped down the leader board due to technical issues. Although Kopecký, the reigning WRC 2 champion, had not driven on gravel in competition since Rally Spain last November, he did not waste time to settle in. The Czech took the lead of the WRC 2 Pro category during the second loop of the morning stages and defended this position until the day’s finish.
On the tough gravel roads of Rally Portugal, the new ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo so far demonstrated speed and reliability. Rovanperä and Kopecký won four of leg one’s seven stages among the R5 competitors. On Saturday, the longest leg of the rally, the ŠKODA works crews have to master eight more tough special stages totalling more than 165 kilometres.
Standings Rally Portugal after Day 1 (WRC 2 Pro)
Kopecký/Dresler (CZE/CZE), ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo, 1:07:16.0 h
Rovanperä/Halttunen (FIN/FIN), ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo, +4.8 sec.
Pieniazek/Gerber (POL/POL), Ford Fiesta R5, +1:53.6 min.
Østberg/Eriksen (NOR/NOR), Citroën C3 R5, +19:09.7 min.
Number of the day: 4
On its FIA World Rally Championship debut, the new ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo was fastest among the R5 cars on four of the first day’s seven stages.
The calendar of the 2019 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC 2 Pro)
Great Britain 03/10/–06/10/2019