WRC - Ogier in front in Portugal after action-packed second leg

  • gb

Sébastien Ogier has completed an action-packed second leg of Portugal’s round of the FIA World Rally Championship with an overnight advantage of 11.9s as he closes in on surpassing Markku Alén’s event win record.

Providing he can maintain his lead over Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team’s Ott Tänak on Sunday’s final four stages, the eight-time world champion will make it a record six Vodafone Rally de Portugal victories.

The Frenchman’s Toyota Gazoo Racing had begun the penultimate leg on a high after locking out the podium following a near-perfect opening day. However, its fortunes took a dive early this morning when Kalle Rovanperä and Takamoto Katsuta both faltered on the tough gravel terrain.

Overnight leader Rovanperä looked poised to tighten his grip on the top spot after blitzing the Felgueiras opener, but he misjudged a right-hander in Montim shortly afterwards and rolled out of contention. Katsuta’s exit was less dramatic but equally devastating: a rearward impact broke his GR Yaris Rally1 car’s suspension as the Japanese driver battled for third.

Toyota’s hopes rested on Ogier’s shoulders. He tussled for the lead with Tänak and briefly relinquished the position on Amarante 1 before going back in front when the Estonian nursed a deflated tyre through the following stage.

Although Tänak maintained the pressure with benchmark times over the first two stages of the repeated afternoon loop, Ogier responded with a brace of stage wins to widen the gap.


“It's been a good day,” said Ogier. “A tricky one, we didn't expect so many things happening today. Unfortunately on Toyota’s side it was not a perfect day. For me it was good, but we lost two cars. We have to try and finish the job tomorrow now.”

The drama up ahead brought good news for Thierry Neuville, who ended the day 59.5s behind team-mate Tänak having climbed from sixth to third. With main title rival Elfyn Evans languishing in sixth, Neuville is poised to extend his championship lead and his Saturday standing will earn him 13 points providing he completes Super Sunday.

Neuville overtook Dani Sordo on the first stage of the day but the Spaniard kept touch with his colleague, ending the day 14.2s further back to make it three Hyundais in the top four.

Behind Sordo by only 7.3s was M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Adrien Fourmaux, who held a comfortable buffer of almost two minutes to Evans. Evans struggled to get into a rhythm with his GR Yaris, and an early spin exacerbated his challenges.


Rally2 cars filled the remainder of the top 10, with Nikolay Gryazin sitting seventh in his Citroën C3 Rally2. Jan Solans was the first of the WRC2-registered drivers in eighth aboard his Toyota GR Yaris Rally2, while Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 pair Josh McErlean and Lauri Joona completed the top 10 following a time penalty for Yohan Rossel. Diego Domínguez leads FIA WRC3 in a Ford Fiesta Rally3 ahead of Renault Clio Rally3 driver Mattéo Chatillon.

Vodafone Rally de Portugal concludes tomorrow, Sunday, over two repeated stages covering a timed distance of 62.18 kilometres. SS19, Cabeceiras de Basto, opens the action from 07:05 local time followed the first of two visits to the iconic Fafe stage from 08:35. The finish is scheduled to take place along the seafront in Matosinhos from 14:25.