Wednesday | 25 May 2022

The inside line: Vodafone Rally de Portugal

The gravel debut of the WRC’s hybrid-powered Rally1 cars will live long in the memory. Was last week’s Vodafone Rally de Portugal the hardest yet? Join us as we reflect on a fantastic event.

Star drive 
This is becoming a bit of a theme, isn’t it? 

Kalle Rovanperä is on fine form right now and his Portugal triumph was arguably the most impressive to date. 

The 21-year-old once again proved to us why he has all the makings of a future world champion. Taking victory despite sweeping the road for everybody on Friday? Now that’s easier said than done.

Three rallies. Three different surfaces. Three wins. Can anybody stop him?

Most memorable stage 
The second pass of the 37.24km Amarante test on Saturday afternoon arguably shaped the rally. 

High temperatures and rough roads meant there wasn’t much tread left on anybody’s Pirelli tyres. After Elfyn Evans outpaced Rovanperä by 8.2sec on the opening pass, we expected something similar to happen again in the afternoon. 

But it didn’t. In worsening rain, Evans completed 13.9sec slower than the Finn, consequently handing his team-mate the lead for the first time all week.

The battle of the Sébs came to an early end

Biggest surprise
The stage was set for another sizzling battle between the two Sébs. Sadly, Portugal didn’t turn out quite as planned for Monsieurs Ogier and Loeb. 

Loeb was the first to go on Friday when he crashed his Puma into a wall whilst leading the rally. Ogier followed him shortly afterwards after running out of spare wheels in his Yaris. 

The last time both legends retired on the same day was at Rally Australia in 2011. 

One to forget
There were high hopes for M-Sport Ford star Craig Breen, but things just didn’t go his way. Two punctures, a brief off and brake issues on the final day saw the Irishman finish a lowly eighth. 

Big things were expected of Breen at the start of this year, but right now we’re still waiting for him to break his victory duck.

Breen had a hard time

Photo of the rally
Don’t worry, we haven’t travelled back in time to the 1980s. Or maybe we have? 

The FIA World Rally Championship toasted its landmark 50th season in 2022 and Portugal formed the centrepoint of the half-century festivities.

Here's two-time WRC champion Walter Röhrl piloting his Audi Sport Quattro through Fafe on Sunday.

Almost 30 historic cars joined in the WRC's 50th anniversary celebrations

Best save
Takamoto Katsuta drove a stunning rally and missed out on a podium result by only a handful of seconds.

Things could have turned out very differently had it not been for a fine save at Góis on Friday. Katsuta hooked his Yaris’ front right wheel into a right-hander, but the road fell away and almost pulled the car into steep a ditch. 

Cool as a cucumber, the 29-year-old stopped the car before it was too late, spun it around and got back underway. 

Quote of the rally 
"You need to be proud of yourself. Don't be sad! You will score many podiums, my friend. Enjoy your career."

That’s what Dani Sordo said to a distraught Katsuta after stealing third from him on the Wolf Power Stage. 

Sure, there are some fierce rivalries in the WRC. But, when the helmets come off, there are also some special friendships.   

Sordo was the first to console Katsuta after Sunday's finale

You’ll never believe it 
A WRC2 car set the fastest overall time on the Porto - Foz super special. 

Not many people can say they were 7.5sec quicker than the fastest Rally1 car on a stage, but Josh McErlean can. Drying road conditions certainly played their part, but we're not taking anything away from Hyundai i20 N Rally2 driver.

Number of the rally
0.7. That’s the time, in seconds, which separated the leading seven drivers on the first pass of Góis. And that’s after almost 20km against the clock...crazy. 

Fun fact 
The WRC2 podium was made up entirely of 2022 debutants: Yohan Rossel, Kajetan Kajetanowicz and Chris Ingram. 

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