Rossetti (Peugeot/BFGoodrich) on top again ! Following his win last month in Turkey, Luca Rossetti has emerged as the overnight leader at the end of the 2008 Vodafone Rally de Portugal's opening leg. The Italian heads Nicolas Vouilloz ...
Rossetti (Peugeot/BFGoodrich) on top again !
Following his win last month in Turkey, Luca Rossetti has emerged as the overnight leader at the end of the 2008 Vodafone Rally de Portugal's opening leg. The Italian heads Nicolas Vouilloz (Peugeot/BFGoodrich) by 2.4 seconds and Francois Duval (Abarth/BFGoodrich) by 15.7s, while Miguel Campos (Peugeot/BFGoodrich Drivers Team) is 10th.
It wouldn't have been out of place to have heard a fado being sung as background music to today's lunchtime service halt in Faro. Rain had just started to fall over the Algarve and the hero of the morning - the reigning Portuguese Champion Bruno Magalhaes (Peugeot/BFGoodrich) - had just dropped three minutes, and the provisional lead, following an off.
Fado diva Maria Severa could have sung from the Algarve Stadium grandstands to tell the tale, too, of the disappointment of Anton Alen (Abarth/BFGoodrich) whose bid to repeat the victory on the same event as his father, Markku, thirty years previously, ended with a clutch problem on SS2. She could also have related the early retirement of another potential winner, Portugal's Armindo Araujo (Mitsubishi), whose turbo failed on the second test.
Luca Rossetti, winner of Thursday evening's super -special through the streets of Faro, was in stunning form again today with his Peugeot/BFGoodrich and completed the opening leg in first place. That, however, means he will be first into Saturday's six stages, which might not be ideal. Indeed, the Portuguese tracks are covered with a thick top-coating of loose gravel that the first drivers have to sweep aside and Rossetti stands to lose time because of this, especially on the first loop.
Given the importance of this phenomenon, today's performance from Belgium's Francois Duval (Abarth/BFGoodrich), who was first on the road, was quite remarkable. The former Citroen WRC factory driver ended the day in third place, 15.7 seconds behind Rossetti, and that could well have put him in a perfect position for Saturday's run.
The 2007 IRC vice-champion Nicolas Vouilloz (Peugeot/BFGoodrich), who led after today's penultimate stage, also knows how important it will be not to have to serve as 'road sweeper' tomorrow and he knows that being on top of tonight's provisional leaderboard would not necessarily have been an advantage. His Peugeot Belux team-mate Freddy Loix was sidelined by a double puncture, however.
The Czech Republic's Jan Kopecky (Peugeot/BFGoodrich) follows in fourth place, 39.4s behind Rossetti, and could also target victory tomorrow. Meanwhile, there's a fine scrap shaping up for fifth spot between two former French World Champions: the 1994 World Champion Didier Auriol (5th, Abarth/BFGoodrich) and the 2003 Junior World Rally Champion Brice Tirabassi (6th, Peugeot/BFGoodrich).
The driver selected for the BFGoodrich Drivers Team operation in Portugal, Miguel Campos (Peugeot/BFGoodrich), is 10th overall, behind the factory Abarth/BFGoodrich driver Giandomenico Basso but ahead of Dani Sola (Abarth).
Quotes from Portugal
Luca Rossetti (1st, Peugeot/BFGoodrich)
"We will see how it goes tomorrow. I will try to keep to the lines of Marcus Gronholm who is driving the zero car. That's a great opportunity for me! I don't think there will be that big a difference in grip for Nicolas, Francois and me."
Marc Van Dalen (Team Manager, Kronos Racing)
"Nicolas had a good run today and should be a little less at a handicap tomorrow since he will be second on the road and not first, which would have been the case had he been leading tonight. Freddy Loix unfortunately had to stop when he had the misfortune of picking up two unlucky punctures. Both times, he came across a big rock dug up by a preceding car on the exit of a blind corner. He couldn't miss them and he only had one spare, so that was that--"
Patrick Letort (Chief Technician, BFGoodrich)
"Tyre choices weren't easy for the second loop. It was raining at service but the stages were still dry. The majority of BFGoodrich runners opted for the medium compound g-Force Gravel, expecting the conditions to be damp. Peugeot drivers Vouilloz, Rossetti, Campos and Loix all went for the hard compound, however. It had rained on the first stage of the group but the two others remained dry and the hard compound, which is stronger, turned out to be the better option."