The double Austrian champion and ERC podium finisher was unable to finish higher than 17th overall on Rally Serras de Fafe, Felgueiras, Boticas, Vieira do Minho e Cabeceiras de Basto last weekend.
It was the Eurosol Racing Team Hungary driver’s first start on gravel in his new-for-2023 Škoda Fabia RS Rally2, while his lowly starting position of 24th on the rain-hit opening leg hampered his pace and contributed to his placing in the final classification.
The 29-year-old’s efforts were also not helped by the fact he as under orders to complete the Portuguese event with his Fabia intact ahead of this weekend’s Rebenland Rallye, round two of the Austrian championship.
“It was definitely not the pace we were expecting and hoping for but in the end we learned a lot and also about the new car,” said Wagner. “If didn’t help that we have a national championship event [this weekend] with this car so we had to bring it back in one piece. Let’s see, we have a lot of work ahead of us, but Canarias is completely different. I hope it will be better there.”
Wagner had been expected to challenge for the top half of the leaderboard in Fafe having scored his maiden ERC podium on last season’s gravel-based Azores Rallye.
“The performance was good in Azores last year, but this rally is completely different with these sandy conditions and you can see you have to drive in a lot of countries to see everything and learn from that. We are happy to be at the finish and thank you to the team and the Michelin tyres. We’ll improve and let’s see what we can achieve in Canarias.”