Portugal : Shakedown
Finnish driver Janne Tuohino topped the time charts at today's pre-event shakedown for the 2006 PT-Rally de Portugal. Less than one second covered the top three drivers, with Tuohino followed by 2005 event winner Daniel Carlsson and young Swede Patrik
Flodin, driving his Group N Subaru Impreza for the first time on gravel.
Despite a puncture on his first run over the stage, Tuohino settled into his Subaru, despite not having driven a Group N car competitively since 1999. “The car felt good this morning,” he said. “We made a few runs to get used to it than pushed a little harder to see exactly what was possible. We made a few detail changes to the suspension, to see what effect they had but other than that, no problem.” Tuohino was originally scheduled to take part in the event last year but a last minute change of plans saw Mikko Hirvonen take his place. “I am very grateful to the organisers for the invitation to compete here again this year,” he said “and am looking forward to the rally.”
Second fastest over the stage was Daniel Carlsson, who will be putting last year's experience to good use once again. “This morning was good,” said Carlsson. “The car was feeling fine and we could have carried on but we'd used all our petrol, so we decided to stop. The road was also starting to get a bit rough anyway – it seemed looser than last year. The car we are using is a newer specification than last year and is the same as Markko [Märtin] and Martin [Rauam], so we'll see how we go when we get to the rally properly.”
Third fastest was the emerging talent of Patrik Flodin, testing his new N12-specification Impreza for the first time on gravel, having won the first two events of the Swedish Championship on snow. “The car feels very good this morning. This is also a useful exercise, as the road is cleaning as more cars go over it and I can get a feeling for how the grip changes. It was very slippery to start with but as more cars go through, it gives more grip. So I think it will help me running seventh on the road.”
Local hero and Portuguese national champion Armindo Araújo was fourth fastest, pleased with his performance. He spent the morning trying different suspension and engine settings but without going too far, conscious that this was shakedown only and becoming less representative of the event. He was also pleased to be ahead of his closest Portuguese rivals, by some six seconds, and to be running with the leading FIA World Rally Championship regulars.
Next on the time-sheets was Markko Märtin, driving a Group N car for the first time on a decade. “It's nice to be driving again,” he said. “I'm not getting too carried away this morning, as the shakedown road isn't exactly like the rally roads. We made a few suspension changes to see what effect this has but nothing too radical. I am ready for the start now. I don't think it will be an easy rally – there is a lot of good competition here. So we will see just how tough it is tomorrow.”
Martin Rauam, team-mate and protégé of Markko was next fastest, adjusting his driving style to the Portuguese stages. “This road is not what I'm used to. Normally, I can cut corners but not here. It's also the first time in this car for me on gravel, so lots of learning. But the last few runs felt much better. We changed to the same car set-up as Markko and this was much better for me. We could have done another run but the road was starting to get a bit rough, so we will save it for the rally!”
Fellow Estonian Urmo Aava, in the Super 1600 Suzuki Swift, carried out just three runs to fine-tune his set-up. The team had started with the same base settings as in 2005 but found that these weren't perfectly suited to the shakedown road and began searching for a better solution. They felt they had made improvements but that more speed was to be found as the event unfolds.
The drivers now head for the Vilamoura marina, for the spectacular ceremonial start. Thousands of local and visiting fans are expected to cheer the crews over the start ramp, against the backdrop of the stunning marina. The event begins in earnest at 10.18am tomorrow, with the start of the first stage, Tavira 1. The first leg finishes at 18.00, as the first car arriving at parc ferme.
Portugal : Shakedown times
J Tuohino N4 03:28.7
D Carlsson N4 03:29.3
P Flodin N4 03:29.6
A Araujo N4 03:32.9
M Martin N4 03:34.1
M Rauam N4 03:35.8
U Aava A6 03:37.9
M Campos N4 03:38.7
F Peres N4 03:39.3
B Magalhães A6 03:42.6
Press release Rally de Portugal