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GP Week : Issue 147
n The SWRC Portugal category was eventually won by the hard charging 2011 PCWRC Champion Hayden Paddon who made up time following electrical trouble, which caused him to incur Rally2 (SupeRally) penalties for three missed stages. Previously the category had also been led by Craig Breen and for nearly two days by Yazeed Al Rajhi until retiring on the final day: “the cross-member broke going into a slow left-hand corner. It was very bumpy, but I think it may have been cracked before – because we didn’t hit anything. I tried to drive another five kilometers or so, but then the wheel came off completely and our event was over.” n The WRC Academy started off its 2012 season in Portugal with 10 Fiesta R2 cars eventually starting. The quality of driving was remarkable, with nine qualifying as finishers, with a tenth car (Chris Duplessis) still running at the end but over the time limit. The only driver to miss a stage was Fredrik Ahlin who went off the road but then returned to the event. Winner was UIlsterman Alastair Fisher ahead of Australian Brendan Reeves and the Swede Pontus Tidemand. n Evgeniy Novikov became the first Russian to gain a WRC podium finish and the crew were also believed to be the youngest – Novikov at 21y6m13d of age, and his co-driver Denis Giraudet at 56y3m16d, the oldest to have been on the WRC podium. which broke the suspension and threw the car off the road, then one foggy stage later Solberg slid into the ditch where he remained for the rest of the day. Petter had one stroke of luck: his penalties were much less than anticipated because the second loop of stages that day were abandoned. Latvala had an outside chance of finishing in the Drivers' points, Solberg of even finishing in the top four. Latvala then had an electrical failure, which cost him more time. Hir vonen started the rally quite unable to set himself at ease with the Citroen but stuck at it to good effect. At the premature end to the Friday stages he was over a half minute ahead of the battling Ostberg and Novikov. Ostberg had a frightening time on the final morning when his car went onto three cylinders, which was cured at service, then with two stages to go Novikov's throttle broke. It was a cliff-hanging end to a rally when nothing went according to plan. The dramas meanwhile were not confined to the Citroens and Fords, because Dani Sordo in his new version Mini had an electrical failure which led to battery failure in the night stages. He was allowed to restart the next day, running first car on he road, and found amazing speed. winning all three of the stages run that day. Sordo: "I don't know how much that was down to a favourable running position, but it was good for the morale of the team. Tomorrow we will put everything into perspective ". He need not have worried, he made fastest on the first stage of Day 3! Rally of Portugal ran unusually through four days, each day bringing different conditions and non- stop uncertainties. But the biggest worry concerned availability of the tyres. 2012 regulations make a limited quantity (10 tyres) of alternative tyres for the championship drivers, over and above the standard allocation of controlled compounds. On this occasion the standard tyres were the hard versions. As one day followed another, the stocks of soft tyres became more restricted. By the final day some drivers were forced into using hard tyres in conditions when soft were ideal. Some mixed and matched their tyres, refitting used tyres again. They even fitted different compounds on one axle – placing them the other way round on the other axle and having tyres of different compounds on the other. Finally Hirvonen thankfully reached the finish, crawling through the Power Stage which strongly fancied the first few drivers through the stage as heavy rain once again arrived. He crossed the line the winner on only his fourth appearance in his new team, heading a group of three drivers none of whom scored a stage win. Truly the tortoises in a world of hares. But then came scrutineering ... WRC >>> PORTUGAL Loeb had more success recceing the street stage in a golf-cart (top), while Eugene Novikov and Denis Giraudet (above and right) set podium age records! 30 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: