The last and sunny day of Rally Portugal saw the continuation of the intense fight for second in WRC 2 right from the re-start. The smooth and fast gravel roads close to the village of Fafe in the northeast of Porto as always attracted thousands of enthusiastic rally fans.
The famous Fafe jump made up the background not only for the fierce battle for second place between ŠKODA factory driver Pontus Tidemand and Teemu Suninen in a private Ford. Fourth placed ŠKODA privateer Quentin Gilbert spectacularly crashed right after the jump. His ŠKODA FABIA R5 landed on its nose, rolled and-over-end and blocked the narrow road causing the interruption of the stage. Due to the safety package of the car, Gilbert and co-driver Renaud Jamoul went away without any injuries.
At the top of the WRC 2 category, Andreas Mikkelsen and co-driver Anders Jæger-Synnevaag (ŠKODA FABIA R5) started the last day with a comfortable lead of more than three minutes and were facing a dominant victory in WRC 2. But on the last test, the Fafe Power Stage, Mikkelsen made a mistake, the ŠKODA hitting a stone and having to stop. “I feel so disappointed for the whole team who gave me such a perfect car for this rally,” Mikkelsen commented his last minute drama.
On the first three stages of the morning, Pontus Tidemand with a controlled and fast drive managed to maintain the gap between him and Ford driver Teemu Suninen, who was no longer able to challenge for second in WRC 2. After he saw his teammate Mikkelsen stopped in the last stage, Tidemand realised that was in the lead. But he also had to fight in the stage to secure his win. Tidemand hit a rock too, thought he had a puncture and slowed down. Therefore, he lost nearly 15 seconds in the ultimate stage to Suninen. But Tidemand/Andersson kept a margin of eleven seconds over the Ford team finally securing victory. “I am happy to win – but I feel really sorry for Andreas. Sometimes, our sport can be brutal. I am satisfied with my performance in Portugal and I got the maximum points for the championship,” Pontus Tidemand concluded.
ŠKODA Motorsport boss Michal Hrabánek had mixed emotions at the finish of Rally Portugal. “It could have been a fantastic weekend for ŠKODA Motorsport, but Andreas and Anders had bad luck. Things like this are a part of the sport – he showed a fantastic pace and deserved to win. Pontus and Jonas impressed me with a very smart and fast strategy. Now, they are clearly in the best position for the title fight. Our ŠKODA FABIA R5 proved again not only to be the fastest but also the most reliable car in the World Rally Championship’s category WRC 2.”
The victory in Portugal was the ninth success in a row for the Czech manufacturer. Out of the last 17 WRC 2 events, ŠKODA won 16.
Final Result Rally Portugal (WRC 2)
1. Tidemand/Andersson (SWE/SWE), ŠKODA FABIA R5, 3:54:17.6 h
2. Suninen/Markkula (FIN/FIN), Ford Fiesta R5, +11.2 sec.
3. Tempestini/Bernacchini (ITA/ITA), Citroën DS3 R5, +7.00.6 min.
4. Campos/Costa (PRT/PRT), ŠKODA FABIA R5, + 9:19.3 min.
5. Pieniazek/Mazur (POL/POL), Peugeot 208 T16, + 10.59.5 min.
Current standings WRC 2 after six rounds
1. Pontus Tidemand (SWE), ŠKODA, 100 points
2. Teemu Suninen (FIN), Ford, 54 points
3. Eric Camilli (FRA), Ford, 52 points
4. Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR), ŠKODA, 50 points
Number of the day: 16
Out of the last 17 World Championship Rallies ŠKODA won 16 times category WRC 2. Since Rally of Spain last year, the factory team is unbeaten and scored nine wins in a row.
The 2017 calendar of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC 2)
Rally Monte Carlo; 19/01/–22/01/2017
Rally Sweden; 09/02/–12/02/2017
Rally Mexico; 09/03/–12/03/2017
Rally France; 06/04/–09/04/2017
Rally Argentina; 27/04/–30/04/2017
Rally Portugal; 18/05/–21/05/2017
Rally Italy; 08/06/–11/06/2017
Rally Poland; 29/06/–02/07/2017
Rally Finland; 27/07/–30/07/2017
Rally Germany; 17/08/–20/08/2017
Rally Spain; 05/10/–08/10/2017
Rally Great Britain; 26/10/–29/10/2017
Rally Australia; 16/11/–19/11/2017