x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Latvala leads his Abu Dhabi teammate after first day of Rally Portugal

Tactics once again came to the fore in rallying yesterday as the Abu Dhabi Ford cars of Jari-Matti Latvala and Mikko Hirvonen ended the first day of Rally Portugal at the front of the field.

Tactics once again came to the fore in rallying yesterday as the Abu Dhabi Ford cars of Jari-Matti Latvala and Mikko Hirvonen ended the first day of Rally Portugal at the front of the field.

The Finnish pair had shown impressive pace in their Fiesta cars to battle with the Citroens of Sebastien Ogier and Sebastien Loeb for the opening six stages of the event.

But on the final stage of the day Ogier, who had been leading, deliberately slowed and dropped 18.5 seconds to Latvala to fall to fourth, while Loeb dropped 12 seconds.

Latvala, who was fastest on the seventh stage by 6.4 seconds from Hirvonen, takes a 11.5 second-lead over his teammate into today's second leg, which consists of six stages.

Loeb, the seven-time world champion, is a further two seconds back, with Ogier 16.7 seconds adrift.

Today's stages are run in starting order from yesterday's final standings, giving a disadvantage to the Ford drivers on paper, as they will be first on the dusty gravel routes, and will clear a line for the following cars, namely the Citroens.

The act of deliberately slowing to gain a more favourable running position is not new to the sport, and was condemned last year for its use in Rally Jordan, but it is not an illegal measure.

Latvala acknowledged what Citroen had done, telling Autosport: "It might not be the ideal position to be, but it is what it is and I'm not afraid of what's happening.

"It would have been maybe the best time to slow down, but this time it went like this."

The third Ford car of Sheikh Khalid al Qassimi is on target for a points finish in 10th place.