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Mads Ostberg and Thierry Neuville tied for the lead after Thursday night’s opening speed test at Vodafone Rally de Portugal.

Thierry Neuville made a good start to the Rally of Portugal. (Photo: RedBull)Just two seconds covered the fastest 10 cars after a series of head-to-head duels at the mixed surface Lousada rallycross circuit, which opened four days of action in this sixth round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

Østberg, driving a Ford Fiesta, defeated Hayden Paddon in their duel and said: “I saw after one lap that it was very close. I struggled a little on the second lap and made a few small mistakes which maybe cost a tenth of a second. But I won by a tenth, so I’m happy.”

Neuville faced Kris Meeke in the penultimate headline heat and the Belgian won by 2.0sec in a Hyundai i20 Coupe.

“It was a great atmosphere to start the rally and I really enjoyed it. I’ve never had particularly good results in this rally so I will be looking for a podium,” he said.

Paddon’s narrow defeat nevertheless earned the Kiwi third in his i20 with Elfyn Evans a further two-tenths behind in fourth.

Dani Sordo, who was fastest in the morning’s shakedown, and Sébastien Ogier completed the top six.

The action continues when competitors journey up the coast towards the Spanish border for three stages near Viano do Castelo.

After service in Matosinhos, the loop is repeated before two runs through a new asphalt street test in Braga. It adds up to 148.32km of competition.

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