Sat 11 May 2024

Ogier grabs Portugal lead as Toyota team-mates suffer

Sébastien Ogier vaulted into the lead of Vodafone Rally de Portugal as his Toyota Gazoo Racing colleagues Kalle Rovanperä and Takamoto Katsuta suffered heartbreak on a brutal Saturday morning.

Just as overnight leader Rovanperä seemed poised to consolidate his position at the top at this fifth round of the season, the two-time world champion misjudged a right-hand bend in Montim – running wide and clipping a tree that sent his GR Yaris Rally1 rolling into retirement,

Ogier was thrust into the lead going into the morning’s penultimate stage at Amarante, but further misfortune struck the Japanese manufacturer squad in the 37km stage as Katsuta, who had lost position to Hyundai's Ott Tänak earlier in the morning, was forced to park his crippled Toyota at the roadside with smashed rear suspension.

Tänak dominated Amarante, outpacing Ogier by 3.6sec to become the fifth different rally leader in 12 special stages. However, rear tyre damage for the Estonian in Paredes allowed Frenchman Ogier to regain control late in the loop, taking a 13.6sec lead to service.

“It was a big push in the last one, but honestly it hasn’t been so different since the start of the rally," Ogier said. "We’re giving it everything we have.”

The drama up ahead brought more good news for Thierry Neuville, who finished the morning 40.8sec behind team-mate Tänak after climbing from sixth to third. Despite stalling his i20 N at a hairpin, the Belgian driver is poised to extend his championship lead - which stood at six points before this rally - over Elfyn Evans with the Welshman currently down in sixth overall.

Spain’s Dani Sordo made it three Hyundais in the top four, trailing Tänak by 3.6sec having dropped behind his colleague in the first stage of the day. M-Sport Ford man Adrien Fourmaux was 20.4sec further back in fifth with a 1min 20.9sec buffer to Evans, who was delayed by a spin on SS11.

Grégoire Munster had a disastrous run through Amarante, pulling over twice and dropping over six minutes as he tried to diagnose a mysterious powertrain fault. Initially suspecting an alternator fault, Munster later discovered that was not the case and the issue appeared to rectify itself.

Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM