Thierry Neuville shines under Figueira da Foz lights at opening stage of Rally de Portugal

.©Hyundai Motorsports

Thierry Neuville shines under Figueira da Foz lights at opening stage of Rally de Portugal

Festus Chuma 09:00 - 10.05.2024

Thierry Neuville leads Rally de Portugal 2024 after thrilling opening stage, showcasing skill ahead of challenging gravel road sections.

On Thursday night, thousands of eager fans gathered in the central Portuguese coastal city of Figueira da Foz to witness Thierry Neuville's impressive performance on the opening stage of Rally de Portugal 2024. 

The FIA World Rally Championship points leader showcased his skill behind the wheel going fastest on the 2.94km Tarmac street stage edging out five-time Rally de Portugal winner Sébastien Ogier by 0.6 seconds.

Neuville, driving his Hyundai i20 N Rally Hybrid, made the most of his final run among the Rally1 cars, setting the pace for what promises to be a challenging event. 

With a demanding Friday of gravel road stages ahead, the Belgian driver needed every advantage. His teammate Ott Tänak followed closely, finishing the stage third-fastest, just 1.4 seconds behind Ogier.

Commenting on the event, Neuville expressed his frustration with the stage format.

"Conditions were not really the same than in the stages as it was much rougher. I was struggling a little bit with feeling with the car but it was not that bad really. We were all saving the tyre for the tarmac section at the end and we cannot really compare times. Now we need to focus on the race. Have a consistent Friday and Saturday to have the best possible starting position for Sunday and catch a maximum of points." he said.

The Toyota Gazoo Racing duo of Takamoto Katsuta and Kalle Rovanperä completed the top five, while Adrien Fourmaux emerged as the fastest M-Sport Ford Puma driver, securing the sixth position.

Despite setting the fastest time during Thursday morning's shakedown, Dani Sordo could only manage seventh place on his 2024 Hyundai debut, narrowly ahead of Toyota Gazoo Racing's Elfyn Evans.

In the WRC2 category, Yohan Rossel led the field, claiming ninth place overall and continuing Citroën's strong season. Pierre-Louis Loubet made a remarkable return to action, securing the second-fastest time in his first WRC2 outing with the Škoda Fabia RS Rally2. 

This marked Loubet's return to global-level competition since the Central European Rally, where he competed in an M-Sport Ford Puma Rally1.

The excitement continues on Friday morning with competitors gearing up for the challenges that lie ahead on the stages.

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