As hybrid-powered cars took to gravel for the first time in the FIA World Rally Championship, the Toyota GR Yaris driver pipped Craig Breen by 0.4sec through the 4.55km Paredes test.
It was hot and dusty, conditions expected to prevail in the hills and mountains across the four-day Matosinhos-based rally.
Welshman Evans is desperate for a strong result after a troubled start to the season in the opening three rounds which has left him trailing ninth in the standings.
“Using hybrid on gravel is something new to discover again,” he said. “It seems to have been something new one after the other with the rallies we have had so far this year. Everything feels quite similar to the pre-event test and that’s always a positive step.
“We were on tight a quite schedule with the cars having to leave for the stage tonight so there was no opportunity to come back to service and do any major changes. It was just a case of working through a few things, but nothing major.”
Dani Sordo, making his 2022 debut in a Hyundai i20 N, set the pace in the first pass through the stage. Evans moved to the top in the second run and further lowered the benchmark time in his third and final pass.
Breen, driving an M-Sport Ford Puma, finished 0.3sec clear of Ott Tänak’s i20 N with Thierry Neuville just a tenth further back as 0.8sec blanketed the top four. Pierre-Louis Loubet’s Puma and Sordo completed the top six.
Sébastiens Ogier and Loeb were seventh and 10th respectively in a GR Yaris and a Puma as the most successful drivers in the sport’s history renew their rivalry for the first time since the season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo.
The leading times were:
|1.||Elfyn EVANS||Toyota GR Yaris||2min 56.1sec|
|2.||Craig BREEN||Ford Puma||+0.4sec|
|3.||Ott TÄNAK||Hyundai i20 N||+0.7sec|
|4.||Thierry NEUVILLE||Hyundai i20 N||+0.8sec|
|5.||Pierre-Louis LOUBET||Ford Puma||+1.1sec|
|6||Dani SORDO||Hyundai i20 N||+1.2sec|
|7.||Sébastien OGIER||Toyota GR Yaris||+1.3sec|
|8.||Kalle ROVANPERÄ||Toyota GR Yaris||+1.5sec|
|9.||Gus GREENSMITH||Ford Puma||+2.0sec|
|10.||Sébastien LOEB||Ford Puma||+2.4sec|
- 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.