Lousã 1, 12.35km
A classic stage which has its own special place in Portuguese rallying history. Crews navigate their way through a dense forestry section before tackling a series of hairpins after the 8km point. After that, it’s an exciting dash to the finish on the outskirts of Lousã village. Where better to kick off the rally?
The Spaniard benefited from cleaner road conditions further down the start order in his Hyundai i20 to complete the 12.35km test 4.2sec clear of Ott Tänak.
“It was difficult but I was happy with my driving and I enjoyed the car. I was scared about the dust but in the end it wasn’t so bad,” he explained.
Rally organisers decided on four-minute gaps between the leading cars to compensate for the hanging dust amid Lousã’s thick canopy of forest.
Tänak’s time from second in the start order was remarkable. Aside from road opener Sébastien Ogier, the Estonian had the worst of the slippery gravel in his Toyota Yaris, but looked set for fastest time until he was eclipsed by Sordo.
“Friday is so crucial for the rest of the weekend,” he said. “We have dust from Ogier and a loose surface. It will be a big challenge because the cleaning is massive today.”
Teemu Suninen completed the top three in his Fiesta, only 0.2sec behind Tänak. Jari-Matti Latvala was next up in his Yaris, the Finn recognising he was assisted by his start position.
“The road is cleaning and this is helping. The dust is quite bad, I didn’t expect it to be that bad, so I was braking early. It will get better now,” he said.
Latvala finished four-tenths behind his fellow countryman and 1.1sec up on Elfyn Evans. The Welshman finished with a warning light showing on the dashboard of his Fiesta but his M-Sport Ford team confirmed there were no concerns for the Welshman.
Ogier and Thierry Neuville, the first two cars in the running order, suffered most from the cleaning roads. Neuville was ninth in his i20, 14.6sec off team-mate Sordo’s pace, with Ogier a further 0.9sec behind in 10th.