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Stage report
WRC Rally Portugal

WRC Portugal: Ogier makes history with record sixth Portugal win

Toyota’s Sebastien Ogier held off Hyundai’s Ott Tanak to claim a record sixth Rally Portugal victory as Thierry Neuville extended his World Rally Championship points lead over Elfyn Evans.

Eight-time world champion Ogier and co-driver Vincent Landais managed to avoid drama from 22 challenging gravel stages to take a second win from his 2024 partial campaign by 7.9s from Tanak, who secured his best result of the season so far.

Ogier’s run to victory helped the Frenchman eclipse 1978 world champion Markku Alen as the most successful driver in Rally Portugal history.

Championship leader Hyundai’s Neuville produced an impressive drive to round out the podium [+1m09.8s] despite facing the disadvantage of starting first on the road on Friday.

Ogier, making his first WRC appearance on gravel since Acropolis last year, initially struggled with the balance of his GR Yaris on Friday morning. However, a big push on stage nine hauled the Frenchman from fourth to second just one second behind leader and team-mate and fellow part-time driver Kalle Rovanpera.

Friday’s eight stages proved to be hotly contested as 9.1s covered the top six after the morning loop while 5.4s split the top four heading into Saturday.

Ogier assumed the rally lead after stage 11 when Rovanpera misjudged a right-hand corner and clouted a tree which pitched his GR Yaris into a roll. The victory battle developed into a head-to-head with Tanak after Friday morning leader Takamoto Katsuta clipped a rock in stage 12 causing terminal damage to his Toyota’s rear suspension.   

Tanak had been fighting with the balance of his i20 N through Friday but was able deliver blistering pace in heat on Saturday. A stunning effort in the first pass of Amarante, 37.24km pushed Tanak into the rally lead by 0.2s over Ogier. The Estonian became the fifth different leader in 12 stages.

Ott Tänak, Martin Järveoja, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Ott Tänak, Martin Järveoja, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

However, a slow puncture for Tanak in stage 13 cost him 13.8s to Ogier who moved back into the lead he would hold until the finish. Back-to-back stage wins in Felgueiras 2 and Montim 2 for Tanak applied pressure on Ogier as the gap reduced to 7.8s.

Ogier issued an immediate response to open up the lead which he controlled through Sunday’s four stages to claim the win. The Frenchman claimed 25 points after finishing third in the Super Sunday standings which added five points to his 18 from Saturday in addition to two points from the Power Stage.

Tanak secured a much-needed 26 points which helped move him to third in the championship, ahead of M-Sport’s Adrien Fourmaux.

Neuville ran as high as second on Friday morning after coping admirably opening the road before falling down to sixth. Drama for Rovanpera and Katsuta helped climb the leaderboard ending Saturday in third [13 points] after Hyundai told its third driver Dani Sordo to back off to fall behind the championship leader.

Neuville held onto the final podium spot through Sunday while claiming 24 points for finishing third on Saturday, second in the Super Sunday classification alongside five points for winning the Power Stage.

This helped Neuville open up a 24-point championship lead over Evans, who endured a difficult rally. After struggling to find confidence with the set up of his GR Yaris, misfortune struck twice on Friday afternoon.

First, co-driver Scott Martin left his pacenote book on a table at the stage six time control, requiring Martin to read pacenotes from a backup version on his mobile phone, before the pair suffered a puncture on stage seven. To make matters worse, an overheating issue threatened to end their rally prematurely, but a roadside repair ensured they reached the finish to claim the six points for finishing sixth on Saturday.

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: Red Bull Content Pool

M-Sport’s Adrien Fourmaux delivered an assured, mature and trouble-free performance to finish fourth overall [+1m47.8s] after ending Saturday in fifth. Sordo finished fifth overall having shown impressive pace on Friday that included three stage wins. But on Sunday the Spaniard, making his first start of the season, struggled in foggy conditions and fell behind Fourmaux.

M-Sport’s Gregoire Munster had avoided drama until his Puma retired on stage 21 after becoming beached.

Jan Solans scored a maiden WRC2 victory for the new Toyota GR Yaris Rally2 after pipping Ireland’s Josh McErlean by 3.2s. Oliver Solberg, Gus Greensmith and Yohan Rossel enjoyed spells in the lead before drama struck. Solberg rolled in stage 11 after being distracted by Rovanpera’s stricken car, Greensmith found himself beached in stage 14, while Rossel was hit by a puncture and two penalties.

 

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