Kalle Rovanpera took a dominant victory in Portugal in what was his first win of the season. Rovenpera topped the Wolf Power Stage on his way to securing victory over Dani Sordo. Esapekka Lappi took third after team-mate Thierry Neuville hit trouble on the first stage of the day.
The finale of Rally de Portugal consists of 4 stages, Paredes and Fafe are up first before Cabeceiras de Basto rounds out the morning. A second pass through Fafe serves as the Wolf Power Stage.
The big news overnight was in WRC2 as Oliver Solberg incurred a 1-min penalty for exhibition driving in Saturday’s super special where the leader performed doughnuts after the finish line. This meant that Solberg lost his lead to Gus Greensmith and only had four stages in which he had to claw back a 30s gap.
For the overall rally leader, Kalle Rovanpera, it was business as usual as the Finn kept a large enough gap to Dani Sordo throughout the morning. Rovanpera was fastest on SS17 to bring out the gap to 59.4s but it would drop to 47.8s before the Wolf powerstage, however, it was a lead that was being managed by last year’s champion. Rovanpera then went on to produce a strong finish as he topped the stage times on the return leg through Fafe. This means that the Toyota driver finished with maximum points from the event with the win on the stage and the overall rally.
“It has been too long coming, but finally we are back,” said a jubilant Rovanpera. “I have to say a big thank you to the Jonne and the team. They have been pushing all the time and going forward. I also have to give a good thank you to my very good friend Artu. I have been having a hard time since the end of last year personally, and he has been pushing me to come back.”
Sordo missed out on the top three stage times on the last run, but the Spaniard still claimed second overall in the standings and was reflective when he finished.
“It’s very nice. I think we drove very well. I want to say thanks to Craig Breen because he was with me for the whole rally and pushing me to my limits.”
In the battle for third, it was drama for Neuville as his Hyundai suffered from a mechanical issue that dropped the Belgian to fifth. Neuville arrived last night with smoke coming from his car and although he believed it could be fixed, Neuville went through the first stage of the morning with reduced power.
Neuville’s issues meant that Lappi assumed third with Ott Tanak moving up to fourth. No movement happened in SS18 as the drivers were saving their tyres for the upcoming powerstage. Lappi claimed third on the final stage for some bonus points to cap off his run to third in the event. It wasn’t without peril though as when the Finn finished, smoke could be seen coming from his I20 N Rally1.
Tanak took second place on the Wolf Power Stage on his way to securing fourth ahead of Neuville who limped his car home.
In WRC2 there was a grandstand finish with Gus Greensmith just coming out on top despite a resurgent Solberg bringing the gap down to 1.2s at the finish. Greensmith developed a mechanical issue on the second stage of the day. Solberg was recovering from his penalty but just couldn’t get the job done.
- Rovanpera 3hr 35min 11.7s
- Sordo +54.7s
- Lappi +1min 20.3s
- Tanak +2min 4.1s
- Neuville +8min 22.5s
- Greensmith +9min 43.4s (WRC2)
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