Teodósio leads overnight after edging Cais

Ricardo Teodósio heads into tomorrow's stages as leader after setting the fastest time late on

FIA European Rally Championship 2023 Stop 1 – Fafe, Portugal

Ricardo Teodósio has set the pace in the season-opening stage of the European Rally Championship, heading into Saturday with a 0.2 second advantage over Erik Cais.

It was a run that just required the drivers to get through without any errors as the rainy conditions made for a slightly trickier first stage, combined with the asphalt surface and gravel tires.

Cais looked set to lead overnight, but Teodósio went even quicker with a 1m27.9s time in his Hyundai.

Before being displaced to second, Cais’ was very pleased with the feeling of his Škoda.

“My team repaired the car really well,” he said. “I tried to be as smooth as possible, and it went well. I was quite careful, but the car feels amazing.”

Meanwhile, third-placed Marczyk ended 1.3s off the pace and is hoping to build on his performance tomorrow.

FIA European Rally Championship 2023 Stop 1 - Fafe, Portugal

“We are trying to understand the car, but for sure we like these stages and we are happy to be here,” he said.

“Tomorrow will be a long day with muddy conditions. I hope this gives me a chance to develop as a driver.”

Before being displaced by Teodósio and the two Škoda drivers, Hayden Paddon said he wasn’t prepared to make any mistakes as he finished fourth on the first stage of the weekend.

“No risks at all,” he surmised. “With the cobblestones, you don’t know how much grip there’s going to be, so you’re definitely playing it on the safe side. A good run and a good warm-up for tomorrow.”

Just 0.2s separated fourth to eighth, with Simone Tempestini, Filip Mareš, Tom Kristensson and Mikko Heikkilä following Paddon’s Hyundai.

Craig Breen, whose Portugal Rally Championship campaign gets underway this weekend, ended ninth and is already feeling confident of a good result in his Hyundai i20 N Rally2 despite tonight’s “atrocious” conditions.

FIA European Rally Championship 2023 Stop 1 - Fafe, Portugal

“It was fairly atrocious to be honest,” he explained.

“Today felt nice and I found the [feeling in the] car already this morning. When it’s so narrow and tricky in here, there was no point taking any risks.

“We’re all set and ready for tomorrow – and I’m fit for bed now!”

Reigning champion Efrén Llarena, who stalled during qualifying, ended the stage in 20th and 3.2s down on the lead time, but was surprised at just how slippery the Fafe streets were.

“It’s really difficult,” he said. “We knew it would be slippery, but it’s much more slippery than we expected. For sure, we took it easily – but it’s done and we can breathe!”

Fabrizio Zaldivar sits 2.3s off the lead time to round out the top 10.