fia ral1

Kris Meeke performs during FIA World Rally Championship 2015 Portugal in Porto, Portugal on May 21, 2015

Photographer Credit Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

The Norwegian headed team-mates Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala in a VW 1-2-3. While his colleagues have driven the car since January’s opening round of the season in Monte-Carlo, this is Mikkelsen’s first rally in it.

He was quickest through the 4.63km Paredes test by 1.3sec from Ogier, with Latvala a further 0.5sec back in third.

“I can’t understand why I didn’t get this car earlier!” joked Mikkelsen. “The feeling with it is great. We had a super test and managed to do a lot of kilometres. I was introduced to it last year so I knew what to expect. I really enjoyed this morning.”

Behind the Volkswagen trio, Ott Tänak was fourth in the first indication of the pace of the new Ford Fiesta RS. He was 0.3sec behind Latvala and tied with Dani Sordo’s Hyundai i20. Robert Kubica completed the top six in another Fiesta RS.

Mads Østberg survived relatively unscathed after a high-speed roll early in his first run with Citroën’s new-look DS 3. Damage was light and the Norwegian completed two more runs after repairs.

“We ran wide, touched a bank and rolled in the road, landing on our side. It was quite a big crash but no real impact. We asked spectators to put the car back on its wheels, changed a puncture and drove back to service,” explained Østberg.

“There was a misunderstanding in the car and I think I heard the wrong pace note, but I’m unsure. I thought I had a ‘short six left minus’ corner which is flat out. But it was a ‘five left minus’ – which is definitely a corner where you should brake,” he added.

Alén’s Portugal record under threat

The Finn will be in Matosinhos for Vodafone Rally de Portugal, reminiscing over victories in 1975, 1977, 1978, 1981 and 1987 that made him a legend with Portuguese fans. But WRC leader Ogier is hot on his heels following wins in 2010 and 2011, followed by 2013 and 2014 victories.

Alén will have the inside line on Ogier’s record-equalling bid as a guest of Volkswagen at the fifth round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

“I have nothing but fond memories of the Rally Portugal,” said Ogier. “I have won there four times already, including the last two years with Volkswagen.

“I have heard that victory this time would see me draw level with Markku Alén, who holds the record for the most wins in Portugal. That is obviously my goal. We know each other already – he is a great guy and I really respect him.”