Evgeny Novikov and Qatar World Rally Team’s Nasser Al-Attiyah brought their Ford Fiesta RS WRCs home in fourth and fifth places respectively.
On an eventful final day at the 2013 Vodafone Rally de Portugal, Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team’s Evgeny Novikov and Qatar World Rally Team’s Nasser Al-Attiyah led the way for the squad as they brought their Ford Fiesta RS WRCs home in fourth and fifth places respectively.
Novikov ended the event in a respectable fourth place. Despite being unable to channel his customary speed, the Muscovite was undeterred by the difficult conditions. The youngster and co-driver Ilka Minor found themselves tantalisingly close to a podium finish when Jari-Matti Latvala’s Volkswagen Polo R WRC encountered problems early in the day. Alas it was not to be, and although narrowly missing out on third place, the Russian recorded his best result of the year which propels him from 17th to 10th in the FIA World Rally Championship’s drivers’ standings.
Finishing eighth overall, Østberg also claimed an additional two points in the all-important Power Stage as he dismissed the disadvantage of running fourth on the road by setting the second quickest time through the 52.30 kilometre test.
Continuing their strong performance this season, Al-Attiyah and co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini secured a second successive top-five finish. Continually improving his pace throughout the weekend, the Qatari was once again at one with his Fiesta RS WRC on only his second outing with the team.
Running first on the road, Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul were disadvantaged by the task of clearing the road for the crews behind. Continually building their experience, the pairing used the seat time wisely – perfecting their pacenotes and building their experience ahead of next month’s Rally Argentina.
Elsewhere however there was heartache for Dennis Kuipers and co-driver Robin Buysmans who were impressing on their return to the championship. Unfortunately for the Dutchman – who was holding a strong seventh place overall – his fine performance was to go unrewarded as an electrical issue halted his charge before the final stage.
In WRC 2, Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt were setting the stages alight. Claiming all of the day’s four stage wins, the British pairing proved that they have the pace to challenge for the top results. Indeed the Welshman’s performance today even saw him outshine some of the WRC competitors and means that he will be a real contender when he returns to the series later this year.
Evgeny Novikov (4th) said:
“Fourth place is a very good result for us, but still I was not so happy with the times. It was a difficult weekend for us. I was pushing on the stages but for some reason the times just weren’t where they needed to be.
“This [fourth place] is definitely the maximum I could have achieved this weekend, so I am happy with that. Now we just need to make sure we work hard and come back stronger in Argentina.”
“This is a fantastic result for us. It was not an easy rally but I think we performed really well and, as always, the team did a great job with the car. Our times are continually improving. This car is totally new for me this year and we are still learning, so to see the times improve like this is really good.”
Mads Østberg (8th) said:
“If you consider the way we came back from our mistake on Friday, we have had a very good rally. We have been very happy with our performance and, considering our road position these past two days, I think we have done a very good job.
“We had good pace and the car has been working really well this weekend. We know for the future that it is possible to win rallies, and I am quite sure that it will come soon.”
Thierry Neuville (18th) said:
“This was a very disappointing rally for us but I can only be angry with myself. My performance was not where it should have been this weekend so I cannot be happy. We can only be happy with the performance of the car, the team and the mechanics, who have done another great job. We’re four rallies into the season now and there have been no problems with the car so this is something important at least.
“Driver mistakes can happen, but I need to make sure that they don’t happen so often! Now I just need to put this weekend to the back of my mind and look ahead to Argentina.”
Elfyn Evans (8th in WRC 2) said:
“This weekend was all very unknown with a lot to learn. We got to grips with the car reasonably quickly and we were building our speed. Unfortunately we hit trouble on Saturday which was disappointing, but it couldn’t be helped. Restarting today we just picked up where we left off on Friday. We had a good day with no problems and just got more and more comfortable as the day went on.
“We’ve gained some great experience this weekend, and I think we’ll be well placed for the next event. I am very much looking forward to getting back and really challenging for the top results.”
Dennis Kuipers (DNF) said:
“It’s hugely disappointing to not have finished today because we were having a really good run and holding what would have been a fantastic result for us. I’ve really enjoyed being back in the WRC this weekend, and hopefully we can be back again soon.”
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s not been the best of weekends for the team, but there are still a lot of positives to take forward. Evgeny [Novikov] and Nasser [Al-Attiyah] put in a great performances and Mads’ [Østberg] pace in particular proves that the team is capable of winning rallies.
“Elfyn [Evans] too has had a good weekend. He’s not put a foot wrong all rally and it’s just a shame that he hit problems on Saturday as a podium finish on his debut with the team [in WRC 2] was well within reach.”
Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team