Rally Portugal is over, dramatic, tough, demanding, the usual stuff. Sebastien Ogier collected maximum points, breaking his promise, given just few stages before the ultimate powerstage. He said “he won’t do it”, but as smug and arrogant as he is, he broke that promise, storming to powerstage victory. That wasn’t nice of him, not nice at all. Seriously though, Ogier was impressive in Portugal, keeping it under control and playing it safe on day one only to strike back yesterday. As problems and issues plagued others, he managed to skillfully steer around every obstacle. Perhaps he does make it look easy, but it was far from it, and Sebastien was the first to confirm it: “It was hard work, Mikko was pushing throughout the event and I had to be very careful”.
Mikko Hirvonen did the next best thing to winning, collecting points for second place overall. He did miss powerstage extra points, but it was a bit too much risk considering the points lost in three previous events. Second place finish was just too precious, or at least that’s what I think I’d do in a situation like this. Mikko kept the battle for victory alive and he was very much ready to challenge Ogier if Frenchman was to make a mistake. That mistake never came and without making any stupid errors Mikko brought the car home in second place, adding some much needed points to his tally.
Third place went to Citroën and Mads Ostberg. For him, the 2014 Rally Portugal was exactly the kind of event he needed to put bad stuff from Mexico behind and attempt to rejoin the championship battle. Mads did push an extra bit to take the final powerstage point, beating Mikko Hirvonen to it by 3.5 seconds. Ostberg also ensured three teams shared the spots on the podium, which is also a very welcome sight these days. Mads is currently third in the overall standings with 48 points, trailing Jari-Matti Latvala (62) and Sebastien Ogier (91 points respectively). Personally I really like what Mads is doing this year, in a new team and with a new car – he knew the expectations would be high, but he accepted the challenge and currently he’s doing a very good job for the French squad.
Hyundai ran out of luck today, as Dani Sordo had to retire following a mechanical failure on the car. It’s a big shame because Sordo had a fourth place secured and combined with Thierry Neuville and Juho Hanninen he was looking to add more points to Hyundai’s account after their first podium in Mexico. Sadly, it did not happen in Portugal – Thierry also lost 6th spot to Martin Prokop when his (Thierry’s) i20 WRC became a rear wheel drive car on the final stage. Despite that, experience, mileage (kilometrage?) and points are here – solid job by the new team. The progress they’re making is pretty obvious, and I am not sure how it corresponds to their expectations and predictions, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it exceeds them in some regard.
One month break now and then it’s time for Rally Argentina.