Sébastien Ogier claimed the lead of Vodafone Rally de Portugal in Saturday morning’s final speed test when Ott Tänak broke his car’s rear suspension against a bank.
Stage info: SS12
Amarante 1, 37.55km
The rally’s longest stage is a fraction shorter than in 2016. It’s wide, fast and flowing but there are plenty of corners among trees which are close to the road. The surface is smooth with a fine layer of gravel on top, but there are also short stretches of asphalt and cobbles. The middle section runs down one side of a valley before returning up the other side and offers great viewing for spectators.
Ogier was fastest through the 37.55km Amarante special stage, the longest of the rally, in his Ford Fiesta. M-Sport team-mate Tänak’s lead drifted away as he limped through 1min 23.1sec slower to plunge to fifth.
“I touched a bank on the outside under braking about 20km from the finish and immediately something broke,” explained Tänak, whose Fiesta completed the test with the rear left wheel out of alignment.
Ogier sympathised with the Estonian’s predicament. “He was doing so well, he set an incredible time in the previous stage and I hope he can carry on,” said the Frenchman, who led Thierry Neuville’s Hyundai i20 by 19.5sec.
The Belgian was second quickest having altered his driving style again. “I tried to be more clean. I was driving too sideways so I tried my normal rhythm, trying to be more efficient. It’s not impossible to go faster, but there’s not much more in it,” he said.
Team-mate Dani Sordo moved back into a podium position, 5.5sec behind his colleague. The Spaniard headed Craig Breen’s Citroën C3 by 21.2sec, with the dejected Tänak more than half a minute further back in fifth.
Juho Hänninen retained sixth in his Toyota Yaris. Elfyn Evans’ hopes of moving back in front of the Finn following his previous stage puncture were knocked when his Ford Fiesta broke a damper and he conceded a further 20sec.
The Welshman nevertheless retained seventh, with Esapekka Lappi’s Yaris, Mads Østberg’s Fiesta and Jari-Matti Latvala's Yaris completing the leaderboard as competitors returned to Matosinhos for mid-leg service.