Sébastien Ogier is confident he has the best tire option as the battle for Rally of Portugal victory moves into the weekend.
Regulations limit the crews to eight soft Pirellis for the rally and the Toyota driver’s ability to be more conservative with his tires allied to his position first on the road through Friday’s opening day has left him in the strongest position to fight for a third win of the season.
While running first on the road is disadvantageous, the same loose gravel that costs time and traction also ensures less wear on the tires. Those cars following dig down to a harder surface that generates more traction and more wear.
Ogier was 41 seconds down after Friday’s sixth stage, but powered back into contention with a stellar run through SS7.
Used only once, the Mortágua test was expected to cost the champion more time as he swept more loose away. Instead, he took his first stage win and halved the gap between his Yaris WRC and the leader.
“I would not have bet even €1 that I would be fastest on this stage,” Ogier told DirtFish.
“It was definitely the most dirty stage of the day with a lot of dry loose.
“The fact I opened the road all day gave me a chance to save the tire more than anybody. Anyway it’s a strength of mine [to save the tires] and that’s how I had much fresher tires for the last [long] stage of the day.”
Asked if he felt victory was still possible, Ogier replied: “It’s definitely still very open, when you see all the trouble [on Friday].
“Tomorrow we have the longest stage of the event, but we have saved tires. Even for the rest of the event I believe I have more soft [tires] than the others. Now we have to try to use them at the best moment.”
He added: “It’s not so easy to stay in the race but good that we did it.
“We managed it and like I said stage seven put us back in the race so let’s see what we can do.”
Ogier’s efforts allied to punctures and technical issues for early leader Dani Sordo moved the championship leader to fifth, 24 seconds off overnight leader Ott Tänak.