Heikkilä stormed to the lead of ERC Portugal after Saturday

Mikko Heikkilä is leading the opening round of ERC, Rally Serras de Fafe, after two competitive days. The Finn is leading his career-third ERC event by 4,2 seconds before the last competitive day. Saturday also marked Heikkilä’s career-first ERC stage win. 

Mikko Heikkilä, 31, and his co-driver Samu Vaaleri, 25, are leading the opening round of ERC, Rally Serras de Fafa after two competitive days. Driving in the Portuguese The Racing Factory team with Skoda Fabia Rally2 Evo, Heikkilä’s margin is 4,2 seconds before Sunday’s 84,28 special stage kilometres. 

The rally started on Friday with qualifying stage that set the starting order for Friday and Saturday. Heikkilä showed he’s at home with the Europe’s best by driving fourth fastest time on the qualifying stage. Heikkilä chose third position on the road for the next nine stages, and opened the rally with a shared seventh fastest time on the super special stage driven in the city of Fafe.

Saturday consisted of two loops of four stages. Heikkilä started with a fourth fastest time, but the second fastest time on SS3 elevated the Finn into the lead of the rally. With third fastest time on the stage four and following the cancellation of SS5, Heikkilä was second in rally with 1,1 seconds off the lead. 

-We are right on the pace of others, and we can identify the reasons for losing the little time we’ve lost. Just small things here and there. The first stage was surprisingly slippery and it was hard to guess where the grip was and where it wasn’t. The second stage was good, and I was a bit too careful on the third stage. 

Heikkilä started the afternoon leg with a second fastest time, and the Michelin driver took his career-first ERC stage win on SS7 despite some technical issues. Upon the cancellation of stages 8 and 9, Heikkilä is leading the rally with a 4,2 second margin. 

-I wouldn’t have believed before the rally that we’d be leading after two days. We’ve been having minor issues with the car, first pop-off valve wasn’t cooperating and we lost a bit of time there, and on special stage 7 the alternator belt snapped, so we had something to do on the liaison. But we’re having so much fun, especially when we get the pace on point in completely new conditions and in an unfamiliar rally! There are still half of the stages to run however, so it’s full focus for tomorrow.

Overall standings after 9/17 special stages: 

  1. Mikko Heikkilä 46:04,4 Skoda Fabia Rally2 Evo FIN
  2. Mads Ostberg 46:08,6 +4,2 Citroen C3 Rally2 NOR
  3. Hayden Paddon 46:21,6 +13,0 Hyundai i20 N Rally2 NZL
  4. Georg Linnamäe 46:25,7 +21,3 Hyundai i20 N Rally2 EST
  5. Martins Sesks 46:42,1 +37,7 Skoda Fabia RS Rally2 LVA

Words: Juho Koski / Mikko Heikkilä Racing Communications
Photo: Zoom Motorsport

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