Kalle Rovanperä took his third win of the season at the Rally de Portugal after pressing home his advantage that he obtained yesterday.
Despite Elfyn Evans gaining a bit of ground in the morning, Rovanperä flew through the Wolf Power Stage to take victory by 15.2s from his Toyota teammate. Dani Sordo managed to break the Toyota stranglehold at the top by beating Takamoto Katsuta on the final stage.
The final day consisted of five stages in the Fafe area. Felguieras and Montim open the day, but everyone will be watching the famous Fafe stage.
Kalle Rovanperä would make the perfect start to the final day as he extended his lead over his teammate Evans. The conditions were slightly damp, but the Finn would extend his lead to 8.4s after beating Evans by 2.7s. not much would change in the following test as Rovanperä would only go a tenth faster than Evans
Dani Sordo would make sure that he did his best to usurp the Toyota stranglehold. The Spaniard outpaced Takamoto Katsuta to bring the deficit down to just 1.2s in the first stage of the day. Like the leaders though it was only an incremental increase that saw Katsuta extend his lead.
Ott Tanak would win stage 18 ahead of Thierry Neuville by just 0.1s which allowed him to jump the Ford of Pierre-Louis Loubet in the overall standings. Neuville remained in fifth place 24s off fourth place. The Belgian had been resurgent but wasn’t able to take enough time out of his rivals to close in.
Craig Breen would round out the top 6. Ford not having the best of rallies as various issues including punctures and collisions have dropped them all out of the running.
Stage 19 would see Evans fight back by being 1.9s faster than his rival. Rovanperä was caught in worsening conditions with fog and rain affecting his visibility. Ott Tanak would once again take another stage victory moving to within 20s of Craig Breen with two stages left to run.
Katsuta and Sordo’s fight for third got closer again as the Japanese driver dropped a tenth to leave Sordo just 0.8s behind breaking into the top three.
Evans’s fight back would hit a small blip as he would drop more time in stage 20 and left himself with a 9s gap to try to overcome in the Wolf Power Stage. Sordo would also drop time but not as much to give himself a 2.2s deficit after Katsuta finished the stage 1.4s faster.
Ott Tanak’s charge rewarded him with sixth at this point, Ford’s Rally just getting worse and worse. Breen lost a chunk of time due to a brake problem which left him in eighth behind is teammate Loubet.
The Wolf Power Stage would play host to a tense fight where all the top four positions were up for grabs. Rovanperä vs Evans, Katsuta vs Sordo, it was all to play for. Third was decided after a flying run from Dani Sordo, the Hyundai driver finished 4.3s quicker than Katsuta. Both drivers put on a great show for the crowd all weekend and they arguably both deserved third.
Ultimately it was Rovanperä who would seal the victory in Portugal, the Toyota driver beat his teammate by 15.2s overall. After taking the lead late yesterday, he didn’t look back and grabbed the power stage win for maximum points along with it.
This leaves Rovanperä with a 46-point gap to second place Neuville. The hat-trick of wins nicely setting up his championship charge for the rest of the season. Katsuta sits third on 38pts followed by Tanak and Evans on 37 and 36 respectively.
Toyota are still leading the Manufacturers’ Championship on 175pts after securing 3 of the top 4 positions. Hyundai are on 166 points after Sordo’s podium and Neuville and Tanak’s fight back. Ford are third on 94 and Toyota NG are fourth.
Next up is Rally Italia Sardegna on 2nd June for Round 5