Kalle Rovanpera leads Rally de Portugal heading into day two after a drama-filled day. Rovanpera took care of his car and tyres to come out on top with Dani Sordo in second just 10.8s behind. A three-way fight for the final podium spot is currently held by Thierry Neuville.
The first day of the rally includes two passes of, Lousa, Gois and Arganil which is separated by a tyre fitting zone situated in Arganil itself. The day ends with a run through Mortagua before a super special stage at Figueira da Foz.
Tyre drama was the phrase of the day as multiple cars in all classes suffered punctures and damage whilst navigating the tough Portuguese terrain. Ott Tanak would be the first big scalp that was claimed when a front right puncture cost the Estonian the lead. Tanak had taken the lead away from team-mate Pierre-Louis Loubet in stage two after a stunning run through Gois but on resumption of the rally in the afternoon, Tanak lost 50.1s on SS4.
Loubet also hit issues at the end of SS3 as his Puma Rally1 car caught fire once the Frenchman had finished his run. They were able to keep going but the time loss temporarily dropped him down the order.
The Toyotas were having their own issues with the tyres, Elfyn Evans and Kalle Rovanpera both suffered from excessive tyre wear on the fronts. Rovanpera was able to make a set-up change before Arganil which launched the Finn into second place. For much of the afternoon, Rovanpera was locked in a tight battle with Hyundai’s Dani Sordo.
The Spaniard was driving the third car in this event and his choice of tyres had put him into the lead after Tanak’s puncture, but after a hard-fought battle, Sordo overshot a corner on SS7 which gifted Rovanpera a 14.2s lead with just the super special stage to go. Sordo completed the super special faster than the leader, but it would only lead to a 4s cut in the Hyundai’s deficit.
“It’s been a really good day,” said Rovanpera. “Lots of cleaning, but still we did a steady day. We were fast but we also took care of the car and the tyres.”
Evan’s tyre troubles continued with an issue in SS6 but unfortunately, the Welshman’s day would come to an end on SS7 where the Toyota crashed just 13.8km into the stage. Evans had been running sixth at the time behind the battle for the final podium spot.
Loubet had recovered from his fire in the morning to stay in touch with the Hyundai duo of Esapekka Lappi and Thierry Neuville. The trio had been trading times throughout the day with them being separated by less than a second with one stage left to run. On that final run, the only position to remain the same was Loubet. Lappi was cautious on his go which led to Neuville jumping back into third to close the day with Lappi now in fifth.
At the close of the day, Tanak finished with a gap of 1min 4.7s to Rovanpera with the Ford having to be nursed due to running low on spares. Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta never really got going in the rally with his car suffering from an alternator failure before the third stage of the day.
Oliver Solberg currently leads in WRC2 after tyre issues hampered early leader Adrien Fourmaux.
Standings after Friday:
- Rovanpera 1hr 22min 27.7s
- Sordo +10.8s
- Neuville +26s
- Loubet +26.9s
- Lappi +27.3s
- Tanak +1min 4.7s
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