Defending FIA World Rally Champion Sébastien Ogier has won Rally Portugal, strengthening his grip on the first season of the new era of the sport.
The M-Sport Ford driver entered the final four stages today 16.8s ahead of Hyundai Motorsport’s Thierry Neuville. He would go on to win one more stage (SS17), before setting the fifth fastest time on the Power Stage to deliver his second victory for his new team, after taking out Rallye Monte-Carlo at the start of the season.
It was a comfortable final day for the Frenchman, who tied Markku Alén for most victories in Rally Portugal with five in the event’s 50th running.
He now leads the 2017 championship by 22 points over Neuville.
“It feels great for sure,” said the three-time champion. “It’s fantastic to be back on the top of the podium again.
“Thanks to the team – the new car was perfect… Amazing! A new car in Monte and we won – a new car here too!”
For Thierry Neuville, second place continued to show him as a force to be reckoned with in the championship. The Belgian closed on Ogier marginally on the final loop of the rally, but had too much work to do, eventually coming home comfortably ahead of his Hyundai team mate Dani Sordo.
“A good stage for me, I tried my best but it wasn’t enough. Ott was faster,” said Neuville after being pipped by Tanak for the Power Stage win by 0.4s.
“I struggled this weekend with the rear of the car. The Fiestas were quicker – we couldn’t catch them.”
In contrast to the first day of the rally, Sunday saw comparatively little change among the WRC crews, Dani Sordo finishing third ahead of Friday’s overnight leader Ott Tanak’s Ford Fiesta WRC. Citroën’s Craig Breen completed the top five with a solid performance ahead of Elfyn Evans, sixth in the third Fiesta and another one ruing something of a missed opportunity.
The only change among the top ten overall runners saw impressive WRC rookie Esapekka Lappi charge home to claim the final point, setting a series of eye-catching stage times in his Toyota Yaris WRC – including fourth in the Power Stage, just 0.2s behind Evans in third.
The Finn combined flashes of immense speed with some rookie mistakes over the course of the rally, but certainly showed something special for the future.
The other notable driver on the final day was New Zealand’s Hayden Paddon, who took two stage wins to give him a total of four for the event. It was a case of ‘what might have been’ for the Hyundai Motorsport driver, who showed excellent pace in between the electrical and power steering problems that cruelled his rally.
The drama of the day, however, was in WRC2 as Skoda Motorsport’s Andreas Mikkelsen started Sunday three minutes ahead of team mate Pontus Tidemand and Ford driver Teemu Suninen after dominating the class all event (both Tidemand and Suninen also suffered punctures in the final stage on Saturday).
The Norwegian entered the last stage, still with over three minutes in hand – until he sensationally rolled the Fabia R5 one kilometre in, gifting the win to Tidemand with Suninen closing on the Swede by almost 15 seconds in the last stage to ultimately fall 11.2s short. Simone Tempestini was third in the Citroën DS3 R5.
On the day’s first stage, Quentin Gilbert, who would have been in line to complete the WRC2 podium after the Mikkelsen incident, ended his rally in spectacular fashion at the famous Fafe jump. The French former WRC3 champion landed heavily on the nose of his Skoda Fabia R5, before flipping and coming to rest across the road. Both driver and co-driver were unhurt, however the stage was interrupted for all remaining drivers.
In WRC3, Mexican Francisco Name (Citroën DS3 R3T) prevailed over Spain’s Nil Solans (Ford Fiesta R2) and Italy’s Enrico Brazzoli (Peugeot 208 R2).
RALLY PORTUGAL – OVERALL
|1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia||Ford Fiesta WRC||3:24:55.7|
|2. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||+17.5|
|3. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||+1:00.1|
|4. Ott Tanak / Martin Järveoja||Ford Fiesta WRC||+1:32.5|
|5. Craig Breen / Scott Martin||Citroën C3 WRC||+1:54.7|
|6. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt||Ford Fiesta WRC||+3:10.6|
|7. Juho Hänninen / Kaj Lindstrom||Toyota Yaris WRC||+3:48.9|
|8. Mads Ostberg / Ola Floene||Ford Fiesta WRC||+5:29.7|
|9. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila||Toyota Yaris WRC||+5:43.6|
|10. Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferm||Toyota Yaris WRC||+8:13.4|
FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
DRIVERS’ STANDINGS – AFTER RALLY PORTUGAL:
|1. Sébastien Ogier||Ford Fiesta WRC||128 points|
|2. Thierry Neuville||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||106|
|3. Jari-Matti Latvala||Toyota Yaris WRC||88|
|4. Ott Tanak||Ford Fiesta WRC||83|
|5. Dani Sordo||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||66|
|6. Elfyn Evans||Ford Fiesta WRC||53|
|7. Craig Breen||Citroën C3 WRC||43|
|8. Hayden Paddon||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||33|
|9. Kris Meeke||Citroën C3 WRC||27|
|10. Juho Hänninen||Toyota Yaris WRC||21|
MANUFACTURERS’ STANDINGS – AFTER RALLY PORTUGAL:
|1. M-Sport World Rally Team||197 points|
|2. Hyundai Motorsport||173|
|3. Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT||107|
|4. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT||81|
eom/FIA press release