SS2/3: Tänak tops Toyota 1-2-3

Ott Tänak headed a Toyota Gazoo Racing 1-2-3 at Vodafone Rally de Portugal on Friday morning after a disastrous opening for Hyundai Motorsport team-mates Dani Sordo and Sébastien Loeb.

Stage info: SS2/3

SS2: Góis 1, 18.78km
Góis starts with a short asphalt section before it’s back onto the gravel for more flat-out action. Competitors emerge from a thick forestry section to be greeted with breathtaking scenery on the mountain ranges, although they won’t have time to stop for a look! A good rhythm and smooth technique will be key to a good time here.

SS3: Arganil 1, 14.44km
Deeply rooted in rallying history here in Portugal, Arganil is a true driver’s stage. Taking in natural roads across the Açor mountain range, a mixture of fast and flowing sections are met with challenging corners that could easily catch teams out. Driven for the first time since 2001, but one of Portugal’s, and the WRC’s, iconic tests.

Despite starting second in the running order and cleaning the slippery gravel roads for those behind, Tänak was stunning in his Toyota Yaris.

He won both the Góis and Arganil speed tests after finishing second in the opening Lousã to reach the mid-leg tyre zone with a 6.9sec lead over Jari-Matti Latvala. Britain’s Kris Meeke was a further 7.1sec adrift to complete Toyota’s clean sweep.

“We had a very good first loop. It’s been quite tough with dust. I must say the grip has been quite good and the car is performing well. The second loop can be more demanding and rough so we need to remain focused and make the right tyre choice,” said the Estonian.

The three stages, being driven for the first time since 2001, were hot and dusty and officials created four-minute gaps between competitors to avoid visibility issues.

Sordo’s opening stage lead was slashed by Tänak in Góis but it became irrelevant when the Spaniard hit trouble in Arganil. His Hyundai i20 stopped on several occasions, crawling to the finish after losing more than 18 minutes. Team-mate Sébastien Loeb had similar problems and conceded almost 16 minutes.

Team principal Andrea Adamo explained: “It seems there is a problem in the fuel system. We don’t think it is an evaporation issue. I think we know what it is.”

Meeke was a frustrated man at the end of Góis after intercom problems meant co-driver Seb Marshall had to use hand signals to explain their pace notes.

M-Sport Ford duo Teemu Suninen and Elfyn Evans were fourth and fifth in Fiestas. Suninen trailed Meeke by 3.0sec with Evans a further 4.7sec back. Road opener Sébastien Ogier ensured the worst of the cleaning but limited the damage to hold sixth in a Citroën C3.

Thierry Neuville was seventh in the only i20 to escape problems, although the Belgian lost a handful of seconds after stalling in a Góis junction.

World Rally Car debutant Gus Greensmith and Esapekka Lappi were eighth and ninth, Lappi losing a minute with a front left puncture in Arganil. WRC 2 Pro leader Kalle Rovanperä completed the top 10 in Skoda’s new Fabia R5.

Head to WRC+ to watch All Live from Vodafone Rally de Portugal, including every stage broadcast live, breaking service park news and expert studio analysis.

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