PHOTO: Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool
THIERRY Neuville proved there are no lasting effects from his massive Chile crash by setting fastest time in the shakedown session for Vodafone Rally de Portugal.
Don’t miss Vodafone Rally de Portugal 1-hour highlights on 10 BOLD and tenplay.com.au: 3pm (AEST) Saturday 8 June
He edged Kris Meeke by a 0.1 second through the 4.60km Baltar speed test. Teemu Suninen, who claimed his first WRC podium in Portugal 12 months ago, was third, 0.3sec behind in a Ford Fiesta.
Portugal marks Neuville’s return to competition following his sixth-gear multiple rollover at Copec Rally Chile three weeks ago ,which destroyed his Hyundai i20 and left the Belgian on crutches with a leg injury.
“I’m feeling OK. Still a little bit of pain, but when I’m driving and the helmet is on everything is fine,” said Neuville, who picked out Friday’s opening leg stages in the Arganil region, near Coimbra, as ones to watch.
“Friday’s stages are new so it might be an additional challenge for everybody with new pace notes. They are more challenging stages due to the fact they are a little narrower in some places and quite twisty in some sections. It will be a tough day,” he added.
Ott Tänak set the pace in the opening run of Thursday’s shakedown in his Toyota Yaris before M-Sport Ford’s Suninen moved to the top of the rankings in the second pass.
As temperatures approached 30°C and the gravel roads became cleaner, Neuville posted the benchmark time in his third and final run. Meeke came close to matching him in his Toyota Yaris but fell just short in his fourth attempt.
Tänak’s opening run was good enough to hold fourth, tied with Sébastien Loeb’s i20. Dani Sordo rounded off the top six in another Hyundai.
Elfyn Evans suffered a power steering problem on his Fiesta at the finish of his first run. The Welshman returned to the Matosinhos service park, where the issue was repaired before heading back out for two more runs.
Friday’s first leg takes place mostly around Arganil, an area last visited by the WRC in 2001.
Two loops of three stages are tackled with only a tyre-fitting zone in between, rather than a service. A super special stage at the Lousada rallycross circuit rounds out the day before the crews arrive back in the service park.
Shakedown Top 10:
1 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) 3m02.1s
2 Kris Meeke/Seb Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +0.1s
3 Teemu Suninen/Marko Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +0.4s
4 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +0.6s
5 Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +0.6s
6 Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +0.9s
7 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1.1s
8 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +1.3s
9 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1.7s
10 Gus Greensmith/Elliott Edmondson (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1.7s