Kalle Rovanpera led Toyota teammate Elfyn Evans in WRC Rally de Portugal win with Hyundai’s Dani Sordo ending up third.


Elfyn Evans mastered a brutal opening leg at Vodafone WRC Rally de Portugal to lead Toyota Gazoo Racing team-mate Kalle Rovanperä on Friday night. A furious fight in the morning became a matter of survival this afternoon as heat, dust and punishing rock-strewn roads took a heavy toll in this first gravel fixture of the FIA World Rally Championship season.

Evans won four of the eight special stages in his GR Yaris to head his Finnish colleague, who twice topped the timesheets, by 13.6sec after almost 125km of action. The Welshman’s low start position meant he enjoyed the benefit of better grip on roads swept clean by the early starters. In contrast, championship leader Rovanperä endured the worst conditions from first in the running order.

Evans demoted Thierry Neuville, who led after Thursday night’s short speed test in Coimbra’s streets, with an opening stage victory. He won the next, too, but was powerless to halt a charging Sébastien Loeb who snatched a 0.5sec advantage. When Loeb slammed his Ford Puma into retirement against a wall just metres into the next stage, Evans was back ahead and avoided multiple hazards on the deteriorating roads.

Season debutant Dani Sordo was third in a Hyundai i20, half a minute behind. The Spaniard had 5.2sec in hand over Takamoto Katsuta in another GR Yaris, the Japanese driver handing that time away with a spin. Sébastien Ogier was on course to make it a great day for Toyota Gazoo Racing as he steered his GR Yaris into third. Two afternoon punctures stranded the Frenchman roadside with no more spare wheels onboard.

Twice Gus Greensmith had a tyre come off the rim on his Ford Puma. His progress was further stifled when dust filled the cockpit but the Briton persevered to hold fifth, a minute off the lead. M-Sport Ford team-mate Pierre-Louis Loubet was sixth, the Frenchman’s hopes of a top three ending when he overshot a penultimate stage junction.

Seventh was poor reward for Thierry Neuville, who was Evans’ closest challenger until wheel damage on a liaison section forced him to drive the final two tests with a broken driveshaft on his i20 N. Craig Breen was delayed by various problems in his Puma, including a puncture and a brush with a bank. The Irishman was eighth, with team-mate Adrien Fourmaux ninth and Ott Tänak completing the top 10 after two punctures in his i20 N.


Kalle Rovanperä snatched the Vodafone WRC Rally de Portugal lead from team-mate Elfyn Evans on Saturday night to set up a thrilling finale. The Finn trailed Evans by almost 20sec midway through the longest leg of the event before crushing the Welshman this afternoon. He will carry a 5.7sec advantage into Sunday’s closing day in pursuit of his third straight rally win.

Evans had led this fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship for virtually the entire distance in his Toyota GR Yaris, but Rovanperä won this afternoon’s opening two tests to trim the deficit to 9.9sec. Then rain in the second pass of the long Amarante stage handed Rovanperä a vital advantage. It became increasingly heavy and with Evans starting four minutes after his colleague, he conceded almost 14sec and the lead.

Earlier Evans had the best of a morning which was heavily influenced by tyre choice. Both favoured Pirelli’s soft compound Scorpion rubber which offered more grip on the powdery Cabreira Mountain roads than the harder option chosen by others. Takamoto Katsuta ensured a Toyota Gazoo Racing lockout of the top three after overhauling Dani Sordo for third this morning. Katsuta defeated the Hyundai i20 N pilot on all but one stage to carry a 5.7sec advantage into the overnight halt, almost two minutes off the lead.

Both must keep an eye on a charging Thierry Neuville. The Belgian climbed two places to fifth this morning but was almost a minute behind team-mate Sordo at the midpoint. A blistering drive in Amarante before the rain took hold enabled him to close to within 30.1sec. Ford Puma team-mates Pierre-Louis Loubet and Craig Breen lost time on hard tyres this morning. Loubet’s choice was compounded by a spin and he fell behind the Irishman when jammed windscreen wipers hindered his visibility in the rain.

Set-up improvements to the dampers and chassis at the mid-leg service encouraged Breen who demoted Loubet by 14.3sec in sixth. He ended more than 90sec behind Neuville. Gus Greensmith retired his Puma after hitting a bank and breaking the steering. His demise allowed Ott Tänak into eighth with Adrien Fourmaux and WRC2 leader Teemu Suninen completing the leaderboard. Fourmaux dropped behind the Estonian after changing a rear left puncture this morning.

Sébastiens Loeb and Ogier restarted after retiring yesterday. Loeb exited for a second time when his Puma stopped this morning with a turbo problem. He will not restart on Sunday. Ogier went off the road in the same stage and later retired after a fire caused by brake fluid leaking onto the hot exhaust.


Kalle Rovanperä celebrated his third consecutive victory at Vodafone Rally de Portugal on Sunday afternoon to stretch his FIA World Rally Championship lead.

The Finn demoted long-time leader and Toyota GR Yaris team-mate Elfyn Evans on Saturday evening and extended a slender advantage to win by 15.2sec. He heads the standings by 46 points after four rounds following previous victories in Sweden and Croatia.

Second marked Evans’ best result of the season, the Welshman finishing 2min 02.1sec clear of Dani Sordo’s Hyundai i20 N. Sordo denied Toyota Gazoo Racing a podium lockout by relegating Takamoto Katsuta by 2.1sec in the final speed test.

Rovanperä won the Wolf Power Stage to claim five bonus points. Sordo scored four points in second with Thierry Neuville taking three in third in an i20 N. Ott Tänak secured two points in fourth in another i20 N, with Evans netting the final point.


More to follow


Here’s the full WRC results: https://www.wrc.com/en/wrcplus/live-timing/

[Note: The above is as per press release with no edits made]