WRC Portugal: Evans extends lead over Rovanpera, Ogier and Loeb hit trouble again

Elfyn Evans extended his Rally Portugal lead over Toyota team-mate Kalle Rovanpera after a drama-filed Saturday morning.

WRC Portugal: Evans extends lead over Rovanpera, Ogier and Loeb hit trouble again

Overnight pacesetter Evans managed to briefly extend his margin over championship leader Rovanpera after winning the day’s opening stage, before Rovanpera responded to close the gap to 10.2s.

Evans then stamped his authority on the morning to win the final stage of the loop to open up an 18.4s lead over Rovanpera.

The battle for the remaining podium spot intensified as a fired up Takamoto Katsuta leapfrogged Hyundai’s Dani Sordo into third overall. The Toyota driver ensured a provisional top-three lock out for the Japanese marque, ending the loop 1m19.7s behind Evans, but 3.5s ahead of Sordo.

Further back, nine-time champion Sebastien Loeb and eight-time champion Sebastien Ogier returned to the fray after retiring from Friday’s stages, but both encountered issues.

Loeb suffered a power loss in Stage 11 from his Ford Puma which resulted in the Frenchman exiting the rally for a second time in two days. Long-time rival Ogier also hit problems on the same stage, crashing into a bank that left him beached on a hillside.

Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Photo by: Toyota Racing

Overcast and humid conditions with a threat of rain greeted the crews for the start of the rally’s longest day, featuring almost 165 kilometres.

Equipped with fresh rubber, Evans kicked off the morning in fine form as the Welshman stormed to his fifth stage win of the rally, beating Rovanpera by 1.3s.

It was enough to extend his overnight lead to 14.9s as Rovanpera admitted he was “maybe not clean enough in places” and hampered by the extra weight of carrying a second spare wheel. Katsuta was third fastest as he took chunk of time out of Sordo.

It proved to be a difficult stage for M-Sport as Loeb and Craig Breen struggled on the slippery gravel roads after a poor decision to run two hard tyres on the front axle.

M-Sport's Pierre-Louis Loubet lost time to half spin as he also struggled for purchase, while team-mate Gus Greensmith suffered his third puncture of the event when his front right came off the rim. Greensmith lost 59s changing the wheel which dropped the Brit from fifth overall to eighth.

Stage 11 provided plenty of drama beginning with Loeb losing significant engine power that saw him pull over to conduct a reset, but it failed to rectify the problem, ending his day early.

Moments later, Ogier lost control of his GR Yaris at speed clipping a bank before coming to rest beached precariously on the edge of the road. He eventually reached the stage finish once the car was recovered after the Rally1 field had driven through.

M-Sport’s Adrien Fourmaux suffered a spin as light rain began to fall but luckily he was able to continue.

At the sharp end, Rovanpera won the stage taking 4.7s out of Evans’s lead as Katsuta continued to nibble away at Sordo in the battle for third.

Evans issued an immediate response on Stage 12, the longest of the rally at 37.24kms, making the most of tyre advantage over Rovanpera to push his lead back out to a healthy margin.

Katsuta jumped Sordo for the third as the latter was unable to match the pace of the three Toyotas at the front.

Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo by: Austral / Hyundai Motorsport

A strong run from Thierry Neuville helped the Belgian end the loop in fifth overall having jumped Loubet. Breen reached midday service in seventh ahead of Greensmith and Ott Tanak, who is more than four minutes adrift after a pair of punctures on Friday.

The rally continues this afternoon with a further four stages.

shares
comments

Related video

M-Sport unsure if Loeb will rejoin Rally Portugal after shock retirement
Previous article

M-Sport unsure if Loeb will rejoin Rally Portugal after shock retirement

Next article

Dashboard distraction prompted rare Ogier mistake at Rally Portugal

Dashboard distraction prompted rare Ogier mistake at Rally Portugal
Why Monte Carlo success could spark another past master’s WRC revival Plus

Why Monte Carlo success could spark another past master’s WRC revival

Some 39 years on from his Monte Carlo Rally debut, World Rally Championship legend Francois Delecour continues to pick up silverware. Proving that age is purely a number, the 60-year-old's desire to compete against the WRC’s latest young talents could be the start of a new chapter in the Frenchman’s storied career

WRC
Jan 31, 2023
How fired-up Ogier became the WRC's ultimate Monte master Plus

How fired-up Ogier became the WRC's ultimate Monte master

He may only be contesting a part-time campaign in the World Rally Championship these days, but Sebastien Ogier underlined that he's lost none of his speed in the 2023 season opener. Storming to yet another victory on the Monte Carlo Rally, the eight-time world champion rewrote the history books again as Toyota served notice of its intentions with a crushing 1-2

WRC
Jan 23, 2023
How Lancia pulled off its famous Monte Carlo giantkilling Plus

How Lancia pulled off its famous Monte Carlo giantkilling

Audi should have been invincible in the snowy conditions that typically greeted the World Rally Championship paddock in Monte Carlo. But unexpectedly warm weather for the 1983 season opener, combined with some left-field thinking from the Lancia crew turned the tables. Forty years on, team boss Cesare Fiorio reflects on a smash and grab

WRC
Jan 21, 2023
Why M-Sport has pinned all its efforts on a WRC reunion Plus

Why M-Sport has pinned all its efforts on a WRC reunion

M-Sport had a disastrous 2022 with its Rally1 Ford Pumas following Sebastien Loeb’s first-time-out win on the Monte. But now things are looking up with 2019 world champion Ott Tanak leading its attack, and the Cumbrian operation has optimism that it can challenge for a first title since Sebastien Ogier's departure at the end of 2018

WRC
Jan 19, 2023
The contenders seeking to take Rovanpera's WRC crown Plus

The contenders seeking to take Rovanpera's WRC crown

As Kalle Rovanpera begins his World Rally Championship title defence in Monte Carlo, the Finn knows he has a target on his back. But who is best placed to knock the Toyota ace off his perch?

WRC
Jan 19, 2023
Why Rovanpera is anticipating a fight to defend his WRC title Plus

Why Rovanpera is anticipating a fight to defend his WRC title

Question: what could be harder than becoming the youngest-ever World Rally champion? Answer: becoming the youngest-ever two-time World Rally champion. That's quite the challenge facing Toyota's Kalle Rovanpera in 2022, particularly against rejuvenated opposition in the second year of the WRC's hybrid regulations

WRC
Jan 18, 2023
From F1 to WRC: Why Hyundai's new boss could be an inspired signing Plus

From F1 to WRC: Why Hyundai's new boss could be an inspired signing

OPINION: New Hyundai WRC team boss Cyril Abiteboul admits he’s got a lot to learn as he leads the marque's efforts to dethrone Toyota. But could his Formula 1 experience and evident strengths mean he turns out to be an inspired choice?

WRC
Jan 18, 2023
The ultimate rally car project the WRC is glad COVID killed Plus

The ultimate rally car project the WRC is glad COVID killed

Toyota was unstoppable in the 2021 World Rally Championship, with an excellent 75% strike rate from 12 rallies. But in a scary proposition for its rivals, the Japanese marque had built a car for the final year of the previous regulations set which it believes was much faster and could feasibly have crushed the opposition completely. Here the story of its mothballed world-beater

WRC
Jan 1, 2023