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Thu 11 May 2023

Determined Evans tops Rally de Portugal shakedown

Elfyn Evans headed a fiercely contested Vodafone Rally de Portugal shakedown on Thursday morning in which the leading five drivers were blanketed by less than a second.

The Toyota Gazoo Racing star seamlessly continued his pace-setting form from last time out in Croatia, edging out Hyundai Motorsport rival Esapekka Lappi by a razor-thin one-tenth of a second in the 4.61km Baltar warm-up test.

With dry and dusty conditions expected to prevail in the hills and mountains throughout the Matosinhos-based rally, championship leader Evans faces the formidable task of opening the road during Friday’s opening leg.

“It will probably be pretty tough,” admitted the Welshman. “We know the story on these dry gravel rallies, but it's like that.

“We have to make the most of Friday, but it’s not going to be an easy day. It’s probably the roughest day of the rally with no service, so there’s plenty to get at and try to get through cleanly.”

Ott Tänak briefly topped the timesheets after posting the benchmark time in the first pass through the stage. The M-Sport Ford Puma driver was demoted by Evans in the second run, however, and ended the session just 0.5sec behind in third.

A single tenth behind was i20 N driver Dani Sordo, who outpaced fifth-placed Toyota man Takamoto Katsuta by three-tenths of a second. Pierre-Louis Loubet was sixth in another Puma ahead of Kalle Rovanperä and Thierry Neuville, while WRC2 hopefuls Oliver Solberg and Gus Greensmith completed the leaderboard.