WRC - Rovanperä/Halttunen take third consecutive WRC win in Portugal | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile

WRC - Rovanperä/Halttunen take third consecutive WRC win in Portugal


2022 Rally Portugal - Final report

2022 Rally Portugal - Final podium (photo Paulo Maria / DPPI)

Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team’s Kalle Rovanperä and Jonne Halttunen sealed a deserved victory in the 55th Vodafone Rally of Portugal in stunning fashion on Sunday.
The 21-year-old became the youngest ever winner of the event and secured his success by the winning margin of 15.2 seconds, the Finn setting the fastest time on the final Wolf Power Stage for good measure. The five additional bonus points enabled the GR Yaris driver to extend his lead in the Drivers’ Championship to 46 points. 
Rovanperä won nine of the 21 special stages on his way to a fifth career WRC win and is now a strong favourite to become the youngest ever World Rally Champion. He said: “At the moment we are on a really good ride. Starting first here and being in the fight for the win like this was really nice. We had a lot of issues and tough conditions over the weekend and everyone can be happy.”
Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans badly needed a good result after a disappointing start to the season, but the Welshman and co-driver Scott Martin were unable to deliver the sensational pace that propelled them to victory last year. Evans won six specials and led the rally for 12 stages before settling for second overall. 
“We definitely needed a result,” said Evans. “Disappointed with the outcome of today. Hats off to Kalle. He’s done a great job. From my side, it’s better than it has been and we should be able to build from here.”
Takamoto Katsuta and Aaron Johnston had hoped to give Toyota a 1-2-3 finish and Japanese became embroiled in a fascinating tussle with Dani Sordo for the final place on the podium throughout the final morning. 
The pair were separated by 5.7 seconds at the start of the day, although Sordo and co-driver Cándido Carrera trimmed that to just eight-tenths of a second with two stages remaining and stormed through to snatch the final podium place for the Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team on the final Power Stage. 
The Belgian pairing of Thierry Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe pushed hard over the final morning to try and apply pressure on Sordo and Katsuta. Despite losing his front splitter on the Felgueiras opener, Neuville finished fifth in his Hyundai, picked up three bonus points and strengthened his grip on second place in the Drivers’ Championship.
 Craig Breen and Paul Nagle came under pressure on Sunday from a hard-charging Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja in the battle for sixth. The 2019 World Champion won a couple of stages and, when Breen suffered serious brake issues before the penultimate stage, the Estonian was able to snatch sixth place. 
Gaining experience, staying out of trouble and reaching the finish were three of the priorities for Pierre-Louis Loubet and Vincent Landais and the M-Sport Ford Puma crew were unfazed by losing a place to Tänak. But time penalties and on-stage time losses for Breen meant the Frenchman confirmed seventh overall, with Adrien Fourmaux and Alexandre Coria finishing ninth, behind Breen, in the third of the M-Sport Fords.
Sëbastien Ogier decided to continue on the final day to carry out further testing with the hybrid Toyota GR Yaris, but punctures and an accident ensured that the eight-time World Champion’s return to action was a disappointing one and the Frenchman will have to wait until 2023 if he is to overhaul Markku Alén and secure a record-breaking sixth win in Portugal. 
Hyundai Motorsport N’s Teemu Suninen looked to be cruising to a FIA WRC2 category win until he surprisingly left the road in his Hyundai near the start of the Power Stage. With the i20 beached off the track, the Finn had to watch as Frenchman Yohan Rossel powered through to secure a second successive category win in his PH Sport-entered Citroën C3 and a top 10 finish. 
Rossel said: “It’s just a shame for him (Teemu). It’s a victory for me. Honestly a second place is a good result. A win now. Two wins this season and a win on gravel. This is good for the championship.”
The Škoda Fabia trio of Kajetan Kajetanowicz, Craig Ingram and Miko Marczyk rounded off the top four and three-time former event winner Armindo Araújo was the leading Portuguese finisher in 14th overall and fifth in FIA WRC2. 
Fréderic Rosati and Jean-Michel Raoux became locked in a duel for the win in the FIA WRC2 Masters category. Rosati led by 16.9 seconds at the start of the day in a Hyundai i20 N but Raoux, navigated by Laurent Magat, began to apply the pressure and overhauled his fellow French rival on the penultimate stage and went on to seal the win by just 2.3 seconds in a Volkswagen Polo GTI. Laurent Battut, who was driving another Hyundai, finished third.  
Finland’s Sami Pajari managed his pace perfectly over the closing stages to seal a comfortable victory over fellow countryman Lauri Joona in the FIA WRC3 Junior Championship. 
Estonia’s Robert Virves and Great Britain’s Jon Armstrong came home in third and fourth but Will Creighton shed a wheel on the first run through Fafe and retired from fifth place. 

The final unofficial results can be consulted here.