Sébastien Ogier claimed a landmark fifth Vodafone Rally de Portugal win on Sunday afternoon.
He increased his FIA World Rally Championship lead with his second victory of the season by 15.6sec from Thierry Neuville. His 40th career success matched the record five Portugal wins of Finn Markku Alén.
Ogier, who scored his maiden WRC win in Portugal seven years ago, took the lead of the four-day dirt road encounter on Saturday morning in his Ford Fiesta. Holding a comfortable advantage, he eased through the final leg to add to his season-opening win in Monte-Carlo.
“After the struggle we had in the last round, it’s fantastic to be back on the top step of the podium again,” he said. “I had a new car in Monte-Carlo and we won, I had a new car here and we won. I’m not sure if the team can afford to give me a new car for every rally!”
Remarkably, Ogier was one of seven different drivers to lead this sixth round of the season. Belgian Neuville was another. He topped the standings in his Hyundai i20 Coupe after Thursday night’s opening speed test but slipped away before recovering to second.
Neuville, targeting a hat-trick after victories in Corsica and Argentina, changed his driving style in a bid to regain top spot but conceded defeat early on Sunday morning. Nevertheless he moved up to second in the title battle, 22 points behind Ogier.
Team-mate Dani Sordo finished a further 46.1sec behind in third. The Spaniard struggled with the handling of his i20 on the dusty gravel roads and could not fend off Ogier and Neuville after lying second earlier in the weekend.
Ott Tänak looked to be the man to beat on Saturday. He led before swiping a bank and breaking his Fiesta’s suspension and brakes. He recovered to finish fourth, almost half a minute adrift of Sordo.
Craig Breen was again the leading Citroën C3 driver in fifth, the fourth occasion in six rallies he has occupied that position. He was 27.2sec adrift of Tänak but well over a minute clear of Elfyn Evans’ Fiesta.
Juho Hänninen netted seventh in a Toyota Yaris ahead of Mads Østberg and the similar Yaris of Jari-Matti Latvala. Latvala returned to the fray today after spending last night in hospital for rehydration after fighting a severe stomach upset.
WRC 2 leader Andreas Mikkelsen crashed out of 10th in the final stage, allowing Esapekka Lappi to claim a place on the leaderboard on his World Rally Car debut.
The championship reaches its midpoint next month at Rally Italia Sardegna. The four-day gravel fixture is based in Alghero on 8 - 11 June.
Head to WRC+ to see the latest onboard and video reports from Vodafone Rally de Portugal.