WRC Portugal: Ott Tanak clings to lead as Toyotas suffer damper issues

Toyota's Ott Tanak clung onto the lead of Rally Portugal over Kris Meeke and Thierry Neuville, as both he and team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala suffered damper issues

WRC Portugal: Ott Tanak clings to lead as Toyotas suffer damper issues

Latvala had carved 12.2 seconds out of Tanak's lead on Saturday morning after selecting a harder tyre compound than his immediate rivals, but his work was undone on the afternoon's first stage when a damper gave way on his Yaris WRC.

The Finn only lost 8.7s in the initial test, but haemorrhaged 56.7s on the second stage of the loop before having to retire ahead of the final stage in order to preserve the car.

Tanak commented that "he felt something similar" when told about Latvala's damper at the end of stage 11, and was seen looking under his Yaris on the road section to the next test.

The Estonian then dropped 4.1s on stage 12 before losing a mammoth 12.7s to stage winner Neuville on the final test of the day.

Tanak confirmed he was competing with a broken front-right damper, and as a consequence his lead has been slashed to just 4.3s by team-mate Meeke.

Neuville came alive in the afternoon when sensing what was at stake.

The Hyundai driver began the loop with just 1.9s in hand over Citroen's Sebastien Ogier, and made it his mission to pull away.

He did just that, taking 1.1s out of Ogier on stage 11 before grabbing another 5.5s with a stage win on Cabeceiras de Besto. He took two another stage win on Amarante to open up an advantage of 11.8s, after "giving it everything" on the final stage.

Neuville's pace has edged him into contention for victory, just 4.9s behind Meeke and 9.2s shy of Tanak, with Ogier now a lonely fourth.

Esapekka Lappi commented that he "had a really good day", and that his Citroen C3 "is really good for me now" on his way to fifth place overnight.

His pace began to defuse his fight with Teemu Suninen, as Lappi extended his advantage over Suninen's M-Sport Ford by 16.1s across the afternoon to end the day 25.2s in front.

Gus Greensmith had been running in seventh behind Lappi and Suninen, but slid off the road and got the front-end of his M-Sport Fiesta stuck in a ditch on the 23-mile stage that concluded the afternoon.

The Briton, who is making his debut in a World Rally car on Rally Portugal, was unable to free his car and therefore had no choice but to retire for the day.

Elfyn Evans spent the afternoon as road sweeper to the rest, and suffered a half spin at the start of Vieira do Minho as he battled with the conditions. However his team-mate's problems elevated him into seventh, but over four minutes behind his other team-mate Suninen.

Kalle Rovanpera is up to eighth place as he continues to lead the WRC2 Pro class in the new Skoda Fabia R5 Evo. Team-mate Jan Kopecky was held back when the bonnet on his Fabia flipped up near the start of Vieira do Minho, but remains second in class and ninth overall.

Standings after SS13

Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1 Ott Tanak, M.Jarveoja Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota 2h47m23.1s
2 Kris Meeke, S.Marshall Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota 4.3s
3 Thierry Neuville, N.Gilsoul Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT Hyundai 9.2s
4 Sebastien Ogier, J.Ingrassia Citroen Total WRT Citroen 21.0s
5 Esapekka Lappi, J.Ferm Citroen Total WRT Citroen 1m37.5s
6 Teemu Suninen, M.Salminen M-Sport Ford WRT Ford 2m02.7s
7 Elfyn Evans, S.Martin M-Sport Ford WRT Ford 6m10.4s
8 Kalle Rovanpera, J.Halttunen Skoda Motorsport Skoda 8m33.8s
9 Jan Kopecky, P.Dresler Skoda Motorsport Skoda 9m35.3s
10 Pierre-Louis Loubet, V.Landais Pierre-Louis Loubet Skoda 10m04.8s
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WRC Rally Portugal: Tanak leads Latvala as Toyota dominates again

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