WRC Rally of Portugal: Championship leader Ogier maintains lead

World Rally championship leader Sebastien Ogier maintained his Rally of Portugal lead on Saturday afternoon but he and Hyundai's Thierry Neuville remain finely poised ahead of Sunday's final day

WRC Rally of Portugal: Championship leader Ogier maintains lead

Having inherited the lead on Saturday morning's final stage when team-mate Ott Tanak made an error and damaged his left-rear suspension, Ogier entered the afternoon loop favourite to extend his advantage.

The four-time world champion forfeited a second on the afternoon's opening loop to Neuville - who became the de facto challenger after Tanak's time loss - but said at the end of the stage he had deliberately conserved his tyres.

That proved a sensible strategy as he duly added 4.5 seconds to his advantage at the head of the rally in his Ford Fiesta WRC to pull 23s clear.

But M-Sport man Ogier dropped time once more to Neuville on the day's final stage, SS15 Amarante, admitting he had been too conservative as he tried to manage his tyres through the final few splits.

That means the pair will enter Sunday's final day of competition with Ogier 16.8s to the good over the i20 over Neuville.

Dani Sordo holds a lonely but comfortable third in the second Hyundai i20, having drifted further away from the lead two after initially dropping time in the morning.

The Spaniard came through the finish at the end of SS15 with damage to the rear-left of his car, but completed the day with more than half a minute in hand over the fourth-place car of Tanak.

Estonian Tanak had started the loop in fifth as a result of his SS12 accident, but with his Fiesta repaired during service he enjoyed a clean afternoon - albeit without the same speed he had produced earlier in the day - to gain one spot overall. That came at the expense of Citroen's Craig Breen.

The Irishman had started the loop confident that his tyre choice would serve him well, but later said there had been a "misunderstanding" in the service park as he ended the loop a minute and a half down on the leader.

Elfyn Evans had a largely anonymous afternoon but did move into sixth on the final stage at the expense of Toyota's Esapekka Lappi, who hit a wall on SS15 and dropped more than five minutes as a result.

That incident also promoted Lappi's Toyota team-mates Juho Hanninen and Jari-Matti Latvala to seventh and ninth respectively, with Mads Ostberg splitting the pair overall.

Andreas Mikkelsen had maintained his stranglehold on WRC2 proceedings before closest rivals Pontus Tidemand and Teemu Suninen hit trouble on SS15, and now holds a 3m07.1s lead over team-mate Tidemand in class.

LEADING POSITIONS AFTER SS15:

Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1 Sebastien Ogier, J.Ingrassia M-Sport World Rally Team Ford 3h15m24.6s
2 Thierry Neuville, N.Gilsoul Hyundai Motorsport Hyundai 16.8s
3 Dani Sordo, M.Marti Hyundai Motorsport Hyundai 51.3s
4 Ott Tanak, M.Jarveoja M-Sport World Rally Team Ford 1m29.6s
5 Craig Breen, S.Martin Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT Citroen 1m32.4s
6 Elfyn Evans, D.Barritt M-Sport World Rally Team Ford 3m01.8s
7 Juho Hanninen, K.Lindstrom Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC Toyota 3m29.8s
8 Mads Ostberg, O.Floene M-Sport World Rally Team Ford 5m16.6s
9 Jari-Matti Latvala, M.Anttila Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC Toyota 5m32.7s
10 Andreas Mikkelsen, A.Jager Skoda Motorsport Skoda 7m06.6s

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WRC Rally of Portugal: Ogier takes lead as Tanak hits trouble
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