Dramatic opening of 2012 Rally Portugal

It could hardly be more dramatic for the crews of Rally Portugal – first day and four stages and we already had some huge retirements and surprises.

Main story is Sebastien Loeb pulling a “Jari-Matti Latvala” and crashing heavily on third stage of the rally, after setting solid time from second spot on the start on previous stage. Sebastien and Daniel Elena were OK, but car is not able to continue tomorrow after rolling against some big rocks and sustained damage to rollcage.

Loeb’s demise means Ford duo, or rather Jari-Matti Latvala, will be more relaxed going into tomorrow’s stages, but Mikko Hirvonen in remaining Citroën is only 5 seconds behind Latvala. It remains to be seen if Mikko will be trying to catch top spot or will he focus more on bringing the car safely home, along with the points.

“They went off on a situation when the road turned on the top [on a crest], the road turned to the right and Sebastien turned to the left,” said Matton. “The pace note was good, but he didn’t follow the indication, just before the top the road was going a little bit to the left and we think he was looking more to the road and he didn’t follow the note. Sebastien said the impact was not heavy. We don’t know how many times the car rolled, but enough to make sure it won’t start tomorrow.” said Citroën’s team principal Yves Matton on WRC.com.

Another retirement that spoiled the first day of the Rally Portugal is Dani Sordo. Spaniard was forced to retire due to faulty electrical wire in his brand new and heavily upgraded Mini.

Heavy rain that fell on SS 4 meant late starters had to battle some very slippery sections, and in difficult conditions Ott Tanak managed to score his first proper WRC stage win.