2019 Rally Portugal: Tänak Wins His Third Round of Season; Meeke Retires on Final Stage

by Steven Batey

Ott Tänak won his second successive round of the 2019 FIA World Rally Championship ahead of Thierry Neuville and Sebastien Ogier as teammate Kris Meeke crashed out on the Power Stage on Sunday afternoon.

Estonian driver Tänak came into yesterday’s remaining five stages with a 4.3 seconds margin over Toyota teammate Meeke and after extending his lead throughout Sunday morning, eventually ended up claiming the win by 15.9 seconds over championship rival Neuville following the late drama.

Meeke had been bidding to be the fastest man through the Fafe Power Stage before clipping a tree stump and spinning out of the event, promoting everyone behind him including stage winner Ogier and second placed Neuville up the finishing order.

Neuville finished second in Portugal. Photo Credit: Jaanus Ree/RedBull Content Pool

Tänak was on for a strong time on the Power Stage as he chased vital championship points but seemingly slowed to ensure that he wouldn’t win the final stage of the rally so that he doesn’t act as the road sweeper on the next event in Italy in two weeks’ time.

Behind the leading trio, Esapekka Lappi had been continuing his battle with Teemu Suninen but a roll early on Sunday morning that damaged his rear spoiler delayed him before eventually retiring with suspension damage before the start of stage 18 ended his rally.

Suninen finished fourth overall. Photo Credit: Jaanus Ree/RedBull Content Pool

Elfyn Evans completed the top five overall behind his M-Sport teammate with WRC2 PRO winner Kalle Rovanperä taking a career best WRC finish of sixth in the new Skoda Fabia R5 EVO.

Gus Greensmith and Sebastien Loeb both also suffered problems on the Power Stage; the Brit crashed out after breaking his suspension on the jump on the Fafe stage while Loeb hit one of the stage’s many banks.

Rovanperä won WRC PRO on the debut for the Skoda Fabia R5 EVO. Photo Credit: Jaanus Ree/RedBull Content Pool

Jari-Matti Latvala, who had been moving back up the leaderboard following his retirement on Saturday, ended up seventh after restarting under Super Rally rules, with the Finn finishing ahead of Jan Kopecký, WRC2 class winner Pierre-Louis Loubet and Emil Bergkvist who completed the top 10 overall.

After Portugal, Ogier remains as the championship leader, although is just two points ahead of Tanak with the third championship challenger Neuville a further eight points behind in third.

Round eight of the 2019 FIA World Rally Championship is Rally Italia Sardegna, which takes place between June 13-16.

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