Rally Portugal is a traditional test of endurance for both the crews and the rally cars. Dust, rocks and broken surfaces create conditions in which only the toughest succeed. The debuting new ŠKODA Fabia RS Rally2 took the first three places in the WRC2 category and sixth, seventh and eighth overall. This is a great achievement!
The crews were reminded of one of the toughest events of the World Rally Championship during its Friday's stage, when a series of punctures shuffled the standings across all categories. One of the first "victims" was the former WRC2 World Champion Andreas Mikkelsen. After a short break, he returned to WRC2 in a Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 operated by the Toksport WRT team. A puncture in the fourth special stage cost the Norwegians nearly two minutes.
After Friday 120-kilometre stage, Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson crew were the leaders of the WRC2 standings by 50 seconds. The British-Swedish duo Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson was second. During Saturday, Solberg managed to maintain a fairly solid 35-second lead despite suffering a 360 spin, and it seemed that there was no more drama awaiting the Swede. However, the opposite was true.
After finishing the traditionally last Saturday stage, a 3.36-kilometre sprint on the rallycross track in Lousada, Solberg entertained thousands of spectators with several celebratory “donuts”. Unfortunately, the WRC regulations strictly forbid such elements, so the penalty was not long in coming. It was a severe punishment in the form of adding one minute to the total time. This "bonus" relegated the Solberg/Edmondson crew to second place in the WRC2 category. "This penalty is for the fans," commented Solberg, who started Sunday stage 25 seconds behind Greensmith. On Sunday, Oliver showed his heart as a racer and fought like a lion.
By the start of the final special stage on Sunday, the gap had more than halved, to 8.7 seconds to be precise. Solberg drove the Power Stage really hard, being the fastest in his category and winning a total of seven stages this weekend. However, he could not erase the British-Swedish lead and the Solberg/Edmondson crew eventually lost by a narrow 1.2 seconds. "We gave it everything, that's for sure. Congratulations to Gus and Jonas," Solberg said, showing sportsmanship. Solberg's small consolation was that, thanks to his result at the Rally Portugal, he reduced the gap to WRC2 overall leader Yohan Rossel to just a single point. For Greensmith/Andersson duo, Portugal's success meant their second WRC2 victory of the year and a move up to third place in the category. Mikkelsen/Eriksen crew helped the Toksport WRT team's Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 to take all the podiums, mainly thanks to their victories in five special stages. "I'm still getting used to the Škoda Fabia RS Rally2. But I'm getting closer," Mikkelsen said at the finish.
From Portugal's Atlantic coast, the FIA World Rally Championship heads to rough gravel and the heat of the Mediterranean island: the Rally Italy in Sardinia will take place from 1 to 4 June.