WRC Rally Portugal: Thierry Neuville continues to build his lead

Hyundai's Thierry Neuville extended his overall Rally Portugal lead over M-Sport Ford driver Elfyn Evans across the World Rally Championship's Saturday afternoon stages, ending the day 39.8s clear

Neuville started the loop with a 29.9s advantage over Evans, but the Welshman reduced the gap to 23.6s in the opening stage of the afternoon at Viera do Minho.

But the Hyundai driver extended his lead to 28s on the Cabeceiras de Basto stage and then stretched his lead by a further 11.8s on the long third stage at Amarante.

It rained on sections of both the second and third stages which suited Hyundai's decision to run with four soft tyres compared with Ford's two.

It means Neuville is on target to take advantage of Sebastien Ogier's retirement from the rally, after a crash on Friday, and move into the championship lead.

Evans was able to move clear of Neuville's team-mate Dani Sordo in third place overall and ended the day 17.4s clear of him, having been just 5s ahead at the start of the afternoon loop.

Sordo came under pressure from M-Sport's Teemu Suninen in fourth and the Hyundai man had a half-spin at the start of the final stage which lost him around 7s, but recovered to end the day 4.7s clear of the Finn.

Sordo was later assessed a 10-second penalty for dislodging two bails on SS8 - the first run through the Porto street stage - that dropped him behind Suninen overall.

Suninen finished 11.1s ahead of Toyota's Esapekka Lappi in fifth after a close fought battle throughout the day, with Suninen also benefitting from a review of previous times which gained him 6.4s.

He had previously earned notional times after getting stuck behind Hayden Paddon following his crash that blocked the route and ended up with the New Zealander being airlifted to hospital.

Citroen's Mads Ostberg and Craig Breen are a distant sixth and seventh overall after delays earlier in the rally.

Ostberg also lost over a minute to the leaders on the second stage of the afternoon due to a half-spin which left his rear wheels over a dip and requiring spectators to push him back on course.

Citroen's Kris Meeke had been airlifted to hospital following his earlier crash, but has now been released after precautionary checks.

Autosport's live coverage of Sunday morning's Rally Portugal stages starts at 8:30am UK time

Leading positions

Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1 Thierry Neuville, N.Gilsoul Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT Hyundai 3h16m30.0s
2 Elfyn Evans, D.Barritt M-Sport Ford WRT Ford 39.8s
3 Teemu Suninen, M.Markkula M-Sport Ford WRT Ford 1m01.9s
4 Dani Sordo, C.del Barrio Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT Hyundai 1m07.2s
5 Esapekka Lappi, J.Ferm Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota 1m13.0s
6 Mads Ostberg, T.Eriksen Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT Citroen 3m14.1s
7 Craig Breen, S.Martin Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT Citroen 4m53.1s
8 Pontus Tidemand, J.Andersson Skoda Motorsport Skoda 12m52.7s
9 Lukasz Pieniazek, P.Mazur Printsport Oy Skoda 14m12.1s
10 Stephane Lefebvre, G.Moreau Citroen Total Rallye Team Citroen 15m00.4s

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