In the second part of our Vodafone Rally de Portugal review, we name our top driver and propose a quirky quiz question for our WRC aficionados.
Driver of the Rally
The man himself labelled this victory on the Iberian Peninsula as probably the hardest of the nine he has achieved to date.
Pre-event, Ott Tänak identified Friday’s opening leg as the key to the weekend. A far from advantageous road position meant he could not afford a single error to earn himself a better place for the final two legs. He nailed it, ending the day with a near-20sec lead over team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala.
He then brushed off challenges from the Finn and the third Toyota Yaris of Kris Meeke, as well as overcoming brake problems and a damaged damper, to secure back-to-back wins following victory in Chile last month.
Is the Estonian finding a purple patch of form that could end Sébastien Ogier’s title-winning run?
You’ll Never Believe It
This could be a quiz question in the future. Which driver beat Sébastien Ogier and Thierry Neuville on his first competitive special stage in a World Rally Car?
Step forward Gus Greensmith. The Briton achieved just that in a Ford Fiesta in Friday morning’s opening Lousã test. Now we know Ogier and Neuville were handicapped by road cleaning, but even allowing for that, it wasn’t a bad start by the Briton.
When Meeke won Sunday morning’s opening Montim speed test, the Briton slashed Tänak’s overnight 4.3sec lead to 2.4sec. Was this just a sleepy start from Ott? Would Meeke be allowed to usurp his team-mate at the top? Was Kris making a point?
We had the answers in the famous Fafe test that followed. Tänak went quickest by 3.0sec, the lead rose to 5.4sec, and all doubts were removed.
Surprise of the Rally
The last time we saw him he was leaving Concepción Airport in Chile in a wheelchair, brandishing his crutches and making the most of priority treatment from airport staff, after the biggest accident of his career.
Just over two weeks later and back in a competitive environment for the first time, Thierry Neuville was fastest in shakedown, the pre-cursor to a brilliant drive to second on an otherwise dismal weekend for Hyundai Motorsport.