Another strong WRC-2 points-scoring finish for Barrable after surviving Rally Portugal war of attrition
April 8, 2014 by Paul Evans
On his first gravel rally in almost five months, Robert Barrable scored another strong points-scoring finish with 6th in WRC-2 and 16th overall in his Tunnock’s World Rally Team Ford Fiesta R5 on the gruelling Rally Portugal.
This was the first time that the 26-year old Irish driver had ever returned to a round of the FIA World Rally Championship, having made his series debut in Portugal last year. This year’s conditions were even more difficult, as torrential rain during the recce had made the fast and twisty gravel mountain roads in the Algarve region extremely slippery. As conditions dried out during the four-day event, the road surface changed from muddy and wet to dry and dusty from one corner to another, making the notoriously tricky gravel event even more of a challenge.
Co-driven by Stuart Loudon, Robert’s first gravel event since last November’s Wales Rally GB started well, as his tactics of keeping clean and fast lines paid dividends. Others didn’t fare so well, and even several of the works drivers, including Jari-Matti Latvala, Elfyn Evans, Robert Kubica and Kris Meeke, crashed early on.
Another good run on Day 3 saw Robert move up two places to 7th on the second run over the long Santana de Serra stage – even after surviving a huge fifth gear sideways moment, when the rear of his Tunnock’s car stepped out of line on a narrow mountain ridge.
The three stages on the final Day 4 were the trickiest of the entire event, with patches of mud, deep puddles on the inside of blind corners and remarkably slippery section. Yet Robert continued to drive exceptionally well, making up another place in his CA1 Sport-run Fiesta R5 to score another excellent result – finishing 6th, 10.1 seconds ahead of Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari.
Robert: “I’m very pleased to have finished sixth in Portugal. We haven’t done a gravel rally in five months, so it’s understandable that we weren’t able to challenge for a podium finish this time. Twenty cars started in WRC-2 and the calibre of drivers, in terms of both speed and gravel experience, was very high, so we’re happy enough with what we achieved this weekend.
“Rally Portugal is a very difficult and technical event, there is no room for error whatsoever, and it’s been very busy in the car. The conditions throughout were very tricky, with patches of mud and puddles that were trying their best to throw you off the road, so I’m pleased nothing caught us out.
“It was also good to have a battle on the final day with Al-Kuwari, because it kept everything really interesting – and I was very pleased to finish ahead of him.”
Stuart: “We’ve completed all the stages, had no real dramas and gained a lot of experience, so it’s been another really productive World Championship rally for us. Having totally different conditions to what they were on the recce made this year’s Rally Portugal a real challenge, and right up until the end the changing road surface was catching people out.
“We’ve come over blind crests and it’s been a dry road ahead and then we’ve come over the next crest and it’s all mud and water in front of us, and that’s made this event extremely challenging. Rob has done a great job reading the road all weekend and a fantastic job to bring the car home in one piece.”