Rally De Portugal was to be the rally where Gus would be let off the leash to go for his first win along with his codriver Craig Parry. Based in Matosinhos, the rally steeped in history was to be held over 4 days, totalling over 350km’s of competitive action. This was to be the most competitive WRC2 round of 2018 so far with 17 competitive crews registered.
The action kicked off on Thursday evening where 30’000 fans crammed into the Lousada stadium to watch Rally De Portugal kick off. Running further up the road, Gus & Craig set only the 5th quickest time on the opening stage.
Friday morning would prove troublesome but positive for Gus. Engine issues meant Gus was down on power but would still claim the SS3 scratch time to leave him 6.0 sec behind Citroen driver Stephane Lefebrve. However, worse was to follow on SS4 when his intercom broke meaning he was to complete the 27km Ponte De Lima stage by memory. Gus lost 21 seconds to Lefebrve leaving him 2nd overall after an eventful Friday morning.
With issues fixed, Gus went on a big push in the afternoon to claim the lead of the Rally after Lefebrve hit his own problems on SS5. Gus continued to extend his lead up to 34.3 seconds by the end of Friday afternoon. “It’s been a difficult but good day. I’m really happy to have the lead, but today has shown anything can happen, so we need to stay focused”.
Saturday would prove to be the undoing of all Gus’ good work. Gus picked up a puncture on SS10 & also a debeaded tire. This meant Gus had to limp home to service in order to fight for another day. Gus slipped from 1st to 6th. “It’s fair to say I’m devastated but that’s life & that’s rallying. We can still finish on the podium, so I’ll do all I can to salvage some good points”.
On the opening 2 stages of Saturday afternoon, Gus climbed from 6th to 4th and now a place on the podium was within striking distance after halving a 1minute 10second gap in only 2 stages. Unfortunately, the first retirement in 5 events was to follow due to a mechanical failure on the Ford Fiesta R5 meaning Gus was to enter ‘Rally 2’ for the final day of Rally De Portugal. “It’s very frustrating as we were sure to get back on the podium & maybe even 2nd after Lefebrve’s problems. It a big haul of points we’ve missed out on”.
To prove a point, Gus went onto win 60% of Sunday’s stages including both passes of the famous Fafe stage to finish a disappointing 8th. “For sure this is not what we wanted, but I’ve proved a point and we need to come back stronger & I’m sure that first win will come soon”.
Gus maintained 3rd position in the World Rally 2 Championship standings despite a poor result & you can expect to see Gus back out in Rally Finland in July.
“I can’t sit here & tell you I’m not really disappointed that my first win slipped away & it’s not an easy one to take. It didn’t go our way but that is that and we need to move on & start focusing on my next Rally.
We proved to everyone we are able to fight for the win when we’re pushing & I have every confidence that it will come soon. Rally Portugal made it clear that there is a lot, we as a team need to work on to allow us to fight for the win over the whole weekend, not just one day.
We have time to regroup & refocus and we’ll do just that and comeback that little bit faster”.