Rally Portugal: Rovanpera leads Ogier by a second after Friday

Rally Portugal Rovanpera leads Ogier by a second after Friday

Kalle Rovanpera is currently leading Rally Portugal as Toyota teammate Sebastien Ogier trails him by only a second after a hectic Friday run in Arganil.

Reigning world champion Kalle Rovanpera will start the Saturday stages of Rally Portugal with a one-second advantage over his Toyota World Rally Championship teammate Sebastien Ogier after title contender Elfyn Evans suffered challenges on Friday.

Rovanpera took the lead on stage six, but the gap to his rivals never grew beyond a second as the part-time driver struggled with an unfulfilling GR Yaris. Ogier launched a late push on the final stage of the day, shooting from fourth to second, but the Finn, who finished third on Friday morning, managed to hold onto the lead.

Throughout the morning, both world champions attempted to get a hold of Takamoto Katsuta’s GR Yaris Rally1, but his lead fell away on the afternoon’s opening stage. On the repeated Lousë stage, the Japanese could only manage seventh quickest and by the slimmest of margins, Rovanpera’s second fastest run propelled the #69 car to the lead. Katsuta was equally worried with Ogier’s time, which saw the Gap star drop to third.

Over the course of the next three stages, a remarkable show of how well matched these drivers are took place. Rovanpera increased his advantage at the top of the table to two tenths of a second in the nine miles around Góis. After the penultimate test, the leader could finally relax because he had come in a full second ahead of the Japanese.

“It’s tough, we are definitely nowhere near where the car should be,” said a frustrated Rovanpera. “I am fighting all the time, we have understeer and everything so it is making tyre wear worse and worse.

“It’s been a great battle, but my rear tires are in a bad condition. We were just surviving.”

The better part of Arganil 2 saw Ogier’s Yaris without hybrid boost, but a powercycle before the final stage did its job, and the Frenchman was running 3.2 seconds faster than everyone else.

Katsuta’s third was 4.7 seconds off the lead and only seven tenths ahead of leading Hyundai runner Ott Tänak. Despite facing difficulties getting everything to work on the first day, the Estonian managed to stay fully engaged in the combat by mounting his i20 N Rally1 in its paces.

“I tried so hard, it’s not nice. I need to try hard but altogether it’s not working,” said Tanak, who climbed to third overall after Ogier lost 2.4s, having been hampered by a hybrid issue at the start of the stage.

On his comeback to the WRC, Hyundai’s Dani Sordo claimed three stages and is currently in fifth place [+17.9 seconds], 0.2 seconds ahead of his teammate and current championship leader Thierry Neuville. With the disadvantage of starting the race first, overnight leader Neuville curtailed the damage by finishing the morning in second place, only to fall to sixth place [+18.1s] after the afternoon stages.

M-Sport’s Adrien Fourmaux delivered a remarkable drive to remain in seventh [+31.8s], ahead of Evans [+1m43.2s] who lost time to a puncture on stage seven, while his co-driver Scott Martin was without his pacenote book. While Neuville might be just 18.1s down, his sixth place means he will still be compromised by the running order on Saturday.

Gregoire Munster [2m27.3s] completed the Rally1 field after a trouble-free run while the top 10 was rounded out by WRC2 class leader Oliver Solberg, who edged Yohan Rossel by 7.3s.

Evans was among the day’s most disgruntled drivers, admitting: “You couldn’t write it today. Nothing’s gone our way.” It certainly didn’t when co-driver Scott Martin left his pacenote book at the end of a stage, forcing him to read the notes from photographs on his mobile telephone.

Rally Portugal continues on Saturday with nine stages comprising 145.02 kilometres.

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