Stage four of the European Rally Championship season opener, Rally Serras de Fafe e Felgueiras, has been cancelled due to adverse conditions, while victory contender Erik Cais has retired from the rally.
Heavy rain and thick fog has descended onto Saturday morning’s stages, to the point that it was deemed impossible for ambulances to enter the Vieira do Minho test should they be needed.
With stage safety compromised the fourth test of the event was cancelled, with all crews now proceeding directly to Luílhas.
There’s now one less crew in the field though, as fourth-placed Cais was forced to retire on the road section after SS3 Cabeceiras de Basto with a double puncture.
Cais suffered punctures to both his front-right and rear-right tires and also had an apparent power-steering issue, struggling to get the car turned in and dropping 39.4 seconds to rally leader Nil Solans.
With only one spare in the back, Cais is required by regulations to retire, as he won’t be able to satisfy the requirement of having four freely rotating and inflated tires for the remainder of the loop.
Solans remains atop the classification but ceded 0.4s to Georg Linnamäe, who won the Cabeceiras de Basto test. That fastest time promoted Linnamäe to second overall, 22.5s off the lead.
“This is one of the craziest stages I’ve ever done in my life,” grinned Linnamäe. “It was completely mad. So slippery. Fast but slippery, so it’s the worst combination.”
Armindo Araújo retains third place, slipping behind Linnamäe but inheriting a place from Cais’ troubles. He indicated he had little desire to try and battle the leading duo, prioritising scoring maximum points in the Portuguese championship.
Simone Tempestini is fourth, following Cais’s retirement, but already a minute off the lead. He sits ahead of Alberto Battistoli in another Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo.
Those further down the order struggled for grip and it showed in the times, with Araújo already building a one-minute gap over his Portuguese compatriots.
José Pedro Fontes slid off and clattered a bank on stage three, losing almost two minutes, reigning national champion Ricardo Teodósio limped to the finish with front-wheel drive only, while Bruno Magalhães struggled. “Even on the straight it’s not possible to go flat out,” he said.
1 Georg Linnamäe/James Morgan (Volkswagen) 7m17.8s
2 Nil Solans/Marc Marti (Volkswagen) +0.4s
3 Armindo Araujo/Luis Ramalho (Škoda) +10.0s
4 Alberto Battistolli/Simone Scattolin (Škoda) +31.0s
5 Miguel Correia/Jorge Carvalho (Škoda) +31.4s
6 Josep Bassas/Axel Coronada (Škoda) +32.4s
7 Simone Tempestini/Sergiu Itu (Škoda) +33.7s
8 Norbert Herczig/Igor Bacigál (Škoda) +35.4s
9 Javier Pardo/Adrián Pérez (Škoda) +35.6s
10 Erik Cais/Petr Tesínský (Ford) +39.8s
Leading positions after SS3
1 Solans/Marti (Volkswagen) 20m16.2s
2 Linnamäe/Morgan (Volkswagen) +22.5s
3 Araujo/Ramalho (Škoda) +29.8s
4 Cais/Tesínský (Ford) +53.7s
5 Tempestini/Itu (Škoda) +1m03.5s
6 Battistolli/Scattolin (Škoda) +1m16.5s
7 Pardo/Pérez (Škoda) +1m18.0s
8 Bassas/Coronado (Škoda) +1m21.8s
9 Herczig/Bacigál (Škoda) +1m22.4s
10 Correia/Carvalho (Škoda) +1m30.4s