Of all things Ott Tänak could’ve said at the end of the first stage of this year’s Rally of Portugal, nobody had their money on this:
“It’s a shaky ride at the moment – it feels like a wooden horse!”
M-Sport Ford’s engineering team would likely argue quite strongly that their Puma Rally1 is a lot more capable than a household ornament.
Anyway, Tänak soon overcame that discomfort to boss the very next stage, take the lead of the rally and defend it into the remote tire fitting zone at Argnail.
There, he has clarified that already famous comparison to DirtFish.
“On the first stage there is quite a lot of this kind of bedrock where we are quite a bit struggling to absorb really,” he said.
“So it’s quite harsh there so it makes the, let’s say, performance not so good and obviously a bit difficult to focus on the road.
“But other stages were much more sandy so no effect there really, it was behaving fine.”
Tänak holds a three-second rally lead over World Rally Championship title rival Kalle Rovanperä heading into the afternoon.
“I would say we are surprisingly OK generally performance wise,” he added.
“Obviously I’d say feeling wise or generally we obviously can be a lot better. We still have many things where we are not fully happy but it seems like for today what we have for the moment is not too bad.”
Tänak was far from the only driver to find life aboard his Rally1 car sub-optimal however.
Championship leader Elfyn Evans had expected to struggle today given he’s the first car onto the gravel stages, but his feeling with the Toyota hasn’t been where it needs to be either.
“It’s been a pretty difficult morning, not gonna lie,” Evans told DirtFish.
“Of course there’s cleaning, but also the feeling behind the wheel has not been so good to be honest. Struggled a bit with the feeling so… yeah, a bit of a double whammy.”
Team-mate Rovanperä encountered similar issues, particularly on the second stage, before setup changes for the third and final stage of the loop worked wonders.
And the Hyundais of Thierry Neuville and Esapekka Lappi haven’t been as fast as expected either.
Neuville, though, has a theory
“The feeling is good, I just think the road is getting more and more loose,” he told DirtFish.
“All this 10-15cm the organizers have put on top [of the road], it’s getting like sand and we just don’t get any traction anymore, no lateral [grip], we are a bit driving like on the beach!”