Thursday | 13 May 2021

Rally rewind: Portugal 2019

It’s been two years since Vodafone Rally de Portugal hosted the WRC. A week ahead of the 2021 fixture (20 - 23 May), we recall our top five moments from a pulsating 2019 encounter.

1. Tänak toils to triumph
The smile on Ott Tänak’s face was one of relief as much as happiness. As he celebrated on the Matosinhos podium, he admitted: “This is one of my hardest victories ever.”

Hot and dusty roads made visibility tricky in Friday’s opening leg and offered him poor traction from second in the start order. As others floundered, Tänak kept cool to lead a Toyota Yaris clean sweep of the podium places ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala and Kris Meeke.

A difficult opening became even harder on Saturday. Brake problems cut his advantage to a handful of seconds before a broken front right damper left him limping through the final stage with just 4.3sec in hand over Meeke.

Meeke halved the deficit on Sunday before a spin finally relieved the pressure on the Estonian, who came home 15.9sec clear of Thierry Neuville’s Hyundai i20.

Video: Vodafone Rally de Portugal 2019

2. Latvala’s frustration
Latvala has a love-hate relationship with Portugal. He won in 2015 but crashes in 2009, 2010 and 2014 halted his progress. He doesn’t have fond memories of 2019 either.

Despite an opening day stall at a hairpin, he was second and on course to overhaul team-mate Tänak until the Finn damaged his suspension in a heavy landing. He struggled on but eventually had to concede defeat and stop. He returned for the final day and eventually finished an underwhelming seventh.

3. Drama all the way
It was one of those rallies where a clear run guaranteed a strong finish. Trouble is, few managed it.

First day brake problems delayed Teemu Suninen and the hopes of Ford Fiesta team-mate Elfyn Evans were wrecked when he stopped with an electrical problem in the throttle.

Thierry Neuville steered clear of all the drama to claim second

Dani Sordo led initially but both he and team-mate Sébastien Loeb dropped more than 15min after spluttering through the third special stage with fuel pressure problems in their i20s.

Esapekka Lappi wrote a chapter all on his own. The Finn lost a minute with a front left puncture in the opening day but was heading for fifth until he rolled his C3 and then exited for good with broken rear suspension after swiping a bank.

Gus Greensmith crashed his Fiesta in Saturday’s final stage, but that was merely a pre-cursor to a more spectacular accident the following day……

Video: WRC memorable moments - Fafe

4. Top marks for tactics
After a hectic three-day battle, Tänak’s tactical nous came to the fore in the Fafe Wolf Power Stage finale. He had the presence of mind to slow in the closing metres, sacrificing bonus points but ensuring he did not have the disadvantage of starting first at the next round in Italy. Sébastien Ogier took maximum bonus points, headed the championship and would open the road.

5. Frantic Fafe finale
It’s one of the WRC’s iconic stages. And the action in the rally-closing Fafe left fans breathless. Meeke clobbered a tree stump and wrecked his suspension, Loeb retired after clouting a bank and Greensmith’s World Rally Car debut came to a spectacular end when he crashed at the famous jump after his Fiesta’s suspension broke.

• Full coverage from Vodafone Rally de Portugal will be available on WRC+ All Live here, including every stage broadcast as it happens as well as key interviews, features and expert analysis from the service park.

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