Rally Portugal: Neuville wins and takes championship lead

Hyundai's Thierry Neuville took his first ever Rally Portugal victory and with it the World Rally Championship lead after his title rivals hit problems in a chaotic event

Rally Portugal: Neuville wins and takes championship lead

Neuville took control of the rally at the end of a frantic first full day on Friday when many runners either retired or had major delays.

These included Neuville's main championship rivals, Argentina winner Ott Tanak (Toyota) and points leader coming into the event Sebastien Ogier (M-Sport Ford).

Tanak's rally lasted only a few miles as he retired on the first stage with an oil-related issue after hitting a rock. Adding to Toyota's disastrous start, his team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala stopped on the next stage with broken front-right suspension.

Ogier then crashed out on Friday afternoon, sliding off the road on the Viana do Castelo stage after clipping a bank.

There was further drama elsewhere that afternoon, particularly on the subsequent second run at Ponte de Lima where Neuville took an overall lead he wasn't to lose after the top three runners hit problems.

Hyundai's Hayden Paddon crashed out while leading and his team-mate Dani Sordo, who was second, lost half a minute after cracking a rim.

Citroen's Craig Breen was third but lost more than two minutes on the stage after stopping to change a tyre.

Hyundai's Andreas Mikkelsen also stopped on this stage after power steering problems.

This left Neuville leading by seven seconds from Ford's Elfyn Evans as the Hyundai driver built an advantage of around 40s over the Welshman by the end of Saturday's running, which he maintained until the end.

Neuville also took four additional points by placing second on the rally-closing Fafe power stage.

Kris Meeke was third after the second Ponte de Lima stage on Friday - despite an earlier puncture - but then lost a minute when he did the subsequent Porto street stages with his left-rear wheel down to the rim after a tyre delamination.

The Citroen driver then crashed out heavily on Saturday morning on a left-hand bend with his car coming to rest in the trees. The Irishman was taken to hospital for precautionary checks on his back but was released later in the day.

A tight battle for the final podium place was won by Evans' team-mate Teemu Suninen, taking his first ever WRC podium and making it a Ford 2-3.

He was chased by Toyota's Esapekka Lappi and Sordo, the latter ending Saturday third overall but dropped to fourth overnight with a 10s penalty for dislodging two of the bails on a Porto street stage roundabout.

Lappi took fourth in the end, 7.4s behind Suninen and 6.2s ahead of Sordo in fifth.

Ogier, Latvala and Mikkelsen all returned to the action under Rally2 rules on Saturday hoping to score points on the power stage, but none of them did as Mikkelsen came closest in sixth. The five additional points were taken by Lappi.

Result

Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1 Thierry Neuville, N.Gilsoul Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT Hyundai 3h49m46.6s
2 Elfyn Evans, D.Barritt M-Sport Ford WRT Ford 40.0s
3 Teemu Suninen, M.Markkula M-Sport Ford WRT Ford 47.3s
4 Dani Sordo, C.del Barrio Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT Hyundai 1m00.9s
5 Esapekka Lappi, J.Ferm Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota 1m04.7s
6 Mads Ostberg, T.Eriksen Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT Citroen 3m33.5s
7 Craig Breen, S.Martin Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT Citroen 5m23.0s
8 Pontus Tidemand, J.Andersson Skoda Motorsport Skoda 14m10.8s
9 Lukasz Pieniazek, P.Mazur Printsport Oy Skoda 16m17.3s
10 Stephane Lefebvre, G.Moreau Citroen Total Rallye Team Citroen 16m34.3s

Leading powerstage results

Pos Driver Team Car Time
1 Esapekka Lappi, J.Ferm Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota 6m33.2s
2 Thierry Neuville, N.Gilsoul Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT Hyundai 6m35.1s
3 Dani Sordo, C.del Barrio Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT Hyundai 6m35.3s
4 Teemu Suninen, M.Markkula M-Sport Ford WRT Ford 6m36.5s
5 Elfyn Evans, D.Barritt M-Sport Ford WRT Ford 6m37.6s

Drivers' standings

Pos Driver Points
1 Thierry Neuville 119
2 Sebastien Ogier 100
3 Ott Tanak 72
4 Dani Sordo 60
5 Esapekka Lappi 55
6 Andreas Mikkelsen 54
7 Elfyn Evans 45
8 Kris Meeke 43
9 Jari-Matti Latvala 31
10 Craig Breen 26

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Rally Portugal: Thierry Neuville on brink of WRC victory

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Series WRC
Drivers Thierry Neuville
Author Graham Keilloh
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