Sébastien Ogier claimed his fourth Rally de Portugal victory in five years today to extend his lead in the FIA World Rally Championship.
The Frenchman won by 43.2sec in a Volkswagen Polo R from Mikko Hirvonen, who took his best result this year in a Ford Fiesta RS. Mads Østberg finished third in a Citroen DS3, a further 29.2sec behind.
Ogier won the final live TV Power Stage to take maximum bonus points and leads the championship by 29 points after four of 13 rounds. The victory was Volkswagen’s eighth consecutive victory, matching the record set by Citroen in 2011.
“Portugal is a place I love to drive and now I have four wins from five starts in a World Rally Car here,” said Ogier. “I had a good battle with Mikko for a big part of the rally, and I had good tyre management on every stage yesterday afternoon and that made the difference. To save my tyres, I didn’t push like crazy."
Ogier opened the road on Friday’s first full day and limited his losses in conditions that constantly switched between dry and muddy. He took the lead yesterday morning and was untouchable in the afternoon with a clean sweep of stage wins.
He made the most out of soft compound tyres on drying roads, while Hirvonen couldn’t match Ogier’s pace as his soft rubber wore badly in the abrasive conditions.
Both Hirvonen and Østberg showed great consistency throughout, the latter climbing into a podium place when Ott Tänak crashed yesterday after impressing in his Fiesta RS.
Andreas Mikkelsen made a cautious start as he regained confidence after rolling in Mexico on the previous round. However, the Norwegian kept out of trouble, steadily increased his pace and overhauled Henning Solberg this morning to take fourth in a Polo R.
Martin Prokop completed the top six, the Czech driver moving his Fiesta RS ahead of Thierry Neuville in the last stage. The Belgian dropped more than 30sec with a broken driveshaft and a spin in his Hyundai i20.
Juho Hänninen finished eighth after a string of punctures with WRC 2 drivers Nasser Al-Attiyah and Jari Ketomaa completing the top 10.
After a string of crashes earlier in the rally that sidelined Kris Meeke and Robert Kubica, and put Jari-Matti Latvala out of contention, Dani Sordo was the only major casualty today. The Spaniard retired his i20 just a few hundred metres after leaving the service park this morning with a broken driveshaft.
The championship moves to south America next month for Rally Argentina, which is based in Villa Carlos Paz on 8 - 11 May.