Sebastien Ogier is back on the winning side after a couple of dry races that were mainly dominated by Hyundai. The Ford Fiesta driver won Rally de Portugal today, his second win of the season and fifth career win in Portugal. That puts him on the same level as Markku Alen from Finland who also won Rally de Portugal five times.
This doesn’t mean Hyundai is falling back, on the contrary, they scored a double podium with Thierry Neuville finishing second while Dani Sordo put the other Hyundai i20 WRC in third. Ogier managed to win one point on the final TV Power Stage before crossing the finish line with a 15.6s lead. The winner of this stage was Ott Tanak who went ahead to finish fourth in the other M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS.
Fifth place went to Craig Breen driving for Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT while Elfyn Evans crossed the line in sixth place in yet another M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS. The team had great success as Mads Ostberg made it four cars in the top ten by finishing eighth behind Hanninen’s Toyota Yaris WRC. Jari Matti Latvala and Esapekka Lappi finished ninth and tenth or Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT.
It was Neuville and Ostberg who opened the action on Thursday by topping SS1 where they both tied for the lead. Hayden Paddon had been third fastest on Thursday but come Friday morning on SS2, the Kiwi was fastest in his Hyundai i20. Nearly all drivers complained about traction but Paddon managed to stay ahead, Kris Meeke finished second ahead of Latvala.
The lead changed again on SS3/4 where Latvala took topped the stage after beating Meeke and Tanak. His win on the 18km Caminha stage allowed him to stay on top despite finishing seventh in Ponte de Lima.
The Friday afternoon session on SS5 was a different situation, here, it was Meeke who claimed the lead after setting the third fastest time in his Citroen C3. Drivers who chose tires wisely had the smoothest session. Tanak however ended Friday on top, a 4.6s lead over Sordo while Ogier was third. Tanak maintained his lead through SS10 and SS11.
The Saturday morning SS12 was no easy for Tanak as he broke his suspension after hitting a bank. Ogier claimed the lead while Neuville followed through as well to take second. By SS14, Ogier’s lead had topped 20s, he never relinquished it till chequered flag.
Rally Italy is next on the calendar on June 8.