Elfyn Evans was gifted the lead on the penultimate stage of day two of Rally de Portugal after a dominant display from Ott Tanak ended with the Estonian parked up at the side of the road after damaging a rear right wheel on his Hyundai i20 WRC.
Tanak had stamped his authority at the top of the leaderboard in the morning, winning all three stages in the opening loop, dropping only 0.4 seconds to his closest rival Elfyn Evans on the opening stage of the afternoon. After that warning he extended his buffer, only to lose it all on SS14.
The second Hyundai of Dani Sordo could not keep up with the pace of the Welshman throughout the day. After leading most of day one, the Spaniard had gifted the lead to his teammate on SS7 and was not able to show the same pace that he had done on the previous day.
However despite a starter motor issue and the threat of not being able to restart the car if he stalled on the many donuts of the Porto Super Special Stage, Sordo set a storming time to take 5.7 seconds out of Evans’ lead in just 3km and is now only 10.7 seconds off the lead.
Sebastien Ogier headed a trio of Yaris’ and found himself in third overall after a troubled event but had benefitted from demise of other drivers. A spin on SS10 meant his chase of teammate Takamoto Katsuta had to be completed again and he passed him after SS12.
Undeterred, the Japanese driver hit back on SS13 to close the gap back down to 0.4 seconds. At the end of the day Katsuta was still on Ogier’s pace and the gap was only 1.5 seconds. Katsuta was in touching distance of securing his best ever WRC result and possibly his first ever WRC podium.
Kalle Rovenpera was in the final Yaris in a lonely sixth, but was showing impressive turns of pace, albeit with the time gaps so big, not enough to make any inroads to the drivers ahead. However, before the final forest stage of the day the Finn did not start and returned to service to retire for the day.
This and Tanak’s retirement promoted both M-Sport Ford’s up two positions after SS14 as a day of throttle issues hit the team, firstly with fifth place Adrian Fourmaux having the throttle stick open on the first stage of the day which lost him time. Gus Greensmith, in the second Ford Fiesta WRC, also struggled but his issue was a lack of response from the throttle. This was not providing him with the power he needed and he had to keep going into road mode, losing time throughout the day. The Brit would end the day frustrated and in sixth.
It was a day to forget for Thierry Neuville, having restarted under the Rally2 rules following his retirement on day 1, the Belgium described his i20 as undriveable after the second stage of the morning. Once back at service the news was soon confirmed by his team that he would again be retiring for the day to allow extra time to resolve the issues with the car and to return on day 3 to fight for points on the Wolf Power Stage.
Such was the attrition in the WRC the top ten was rounded out by WRC2 frontrunners Esapekki Lappi, Teemu Suninen, Mads Ostberg and Oliver Solberg in seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth respectively.
- Elfyn Evans – Toyota Yaris WRC
- Dani Sordo – Hyundai i20 WRC +10.7
- Sebastien Ogier – Toyota Yaris WRC +1:04.2
FIA World Rally Championship 2
Esapekki Lappi continued to lead in the FIA World Rally Championship 2 support series in his VW Polo GTi R5 as main rival Nikolay Gryazin fell away with a turbo issue. Gryazin replaced the turbo at service but would take a time penalty of 1 min 20 seconds for leaving late.
Teemu Suninen was therefore promoted to second in his Ford Fiesta Rally2. The Finn keeping close to Lappi, but only able to pip him by 0.1 seconds on one stage, later a puncture on SS14 left him 40.4 seconds adrift at the end of day 2.
Mads Ostberg was saving tyres for the Wolf Power Stage, but due to the misfortune of others found himself in third at the end of the day. Ostberg did have a bit of joy with a fastest stage time on SS14 and a second fastest stage overall amongst the WRC drivers on the Porto Super Special Stage. Gryazin would end the day fourth, but had been catching Ostberg throughout the afternoon after fixing his turbo issue.
Oliver Solberg moved up to third during the day, setting a fastest stage time on SS13. However he would get himself stuck off road on SS14 and a combination of being unable to select reverse and a car that wouldn’t restart meant he lost his podium position and dropped to fifth.
- Esapekki Lappi – VW Polo Gti R5
- Teemu Suninen – Ford Fiesta Rally 2 +40.4
- Mads Ostberg – Citroen C3 Rally2 +2:25.4
FIA World Rally Championship 3
Yohan Rossel held onto his WRC3 overnight lead as two large swings meant that the top two swapped positions throughout the day. Kajetan Kajetanowicz, driving a Skoda Fabia evo Rally2 took nearly 20 seconds out of overnight leader Yohan Rossel on two stages in the morning, the Citroen C3 Rally2 driver having no response until Kajetanowicz hit trouble on SS14 and lost 23 seconds to hand Rossel a narrow lead of 3 seconds.
Chris Ingram was promoted to third overnight thanks to being given a notional time for two of Friday’s stages, but Nicolas Ciamin soon reclaimed his podium position. However he lost over 27 seconds to Ingram on SS13, allowing the Brit still remain in third at the end of the day, 54.3 seconds off the lead.
- Yohan Rossel – Citroen C3 Rally2
- Kajetan Kajetanowicz – Skoda Fabia evo Rally2 +3.0
- Chris Ingram – Skoda Fabia evo Rally2 +54.3
FIA Junior World Rally Championship
Overnight leader Sami Pajari was to hit trouble on the final stage of the morning, power steering issues causing him to lose over three minutes which initially dropped him to third overall. Martins Sesks inherited the lead after catching and passing Martin Koci on the leader board throughout the morning before Koci stopped in SS12 with a broken drive shaft. This promoted Pajari back to second, his three minutes of time loss only costing him one position overall.
Despite retiring yesterday, Jon Armstrong found himself back in a podium position competing under the Rally2 rules and benefitting from the demise of Koci. Sadly he would later join Lauri Joori in retiring again on day two. Robert Virves took the final podium position at the end of day two with William Creighton in fifth.
- Martins Sesks – Ford Fiesta Rally4
- Sami Pajari – Ford Fiesta Rally4 +3:20.2
- Robert Virves – Ford Fiesta Rally4 +9:29.0