Elfyn Evans denied M-Sport its first stage win of the World Rally Championship season on Rally Portugal’s penultimate stage as he closes in on a fourth career victory.
The Toyota driver had set a monstrous time on the first pass of the Felgueiras test, going 8.9 seconds faster than anyone else. Although he didn’t take as big a chunk out of the chasing pack on the repeat pass, he still won the stage by four seconds over M-Sport’s Adrien Fourmaux.
Dani Sordo, who lies second overall behind Evans, lost 4.2s to Evans to trail by 26.2s ahead of the end-of-rally powerstage.
As he had done on the first pass of Falgueiras, Fourmaux got the better of his team-mate Gus Greensmith – this time by 1.5s – but it’s Greensmith that holds fifth place overall by 5.2s.
Katsuta’s leisurely run through Sunday’s stages continued once more on the penultimate test of the rally as he dropped 33.4s to the stage winner and 26.9s to Sébastien Ogier ahead who, barring any mistakes, looks nailed on for the final podium position with a 59.1s advantage over Katsuta in fourth.
Ogier was fifth fastest on Falgueiras, 6.5s slower than Evans.
Having set the fastest time on the proceeding Fafe stage, Thierry Neuville reverted to his cautious pace in a bid to preserve his tires for the second pass of Fafe which will award bonus points.
The Hyundai driver was a full 38.9s slower than the fastest time and was swallowed by several Rally2 cars in the stage classification too.
Team-mate Ott Tänak, who was second behind Neuville on the previous stage, employed a similar tactic on Felgueiras and was even slower. Despite them both cruising, they incredibly were just separated by 0.3s on the stage.
Kalle Rovanperä’s Toyota is the other World Rally Car restarting today following a retirement earlier in the rally, but he wasn’t as sedate on SS19. The 20-year-old stopped the clocks 30.2s faster than Neuville’s Hyundai, 39.2s shy of the stage best.
Positions remain steady in WRC2 with Esapekka Lappi heading Teemu Suninen by 1m34.7s in his Volkswagen Polo GTI R5, lying seventh overall as a result of the high attrition rate.
Mads Østberg however is the man setting the pace as he took his third stage win in a row to pull further clear of Nikolay Gryazin. A total of 24.3s separates Østberg’s C3 and Gryazin’s Polo ahead of the powerstage.
1 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) 6m03.7s
2 Adrien Fourmaux/Renaud Jamoul (M-Sport Ford) +4.0s
3 Dani Sordo/Borja Rozada (Hyundai) +4.2s
4 Gus Greensmith/Chris Patterson (M-Sport Ford) +5.5s
5 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota) +6.5s
6 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Haltunnen (Toyota) +8.7s
Leading positions after SS19
1 Evans/Martin 3h31m48.4s
2 Sordo/Rozada +26.2s
3 Ogier/Ingrassia +1m28.8s
4 Takamoto Katsuta/Daniel Barritt (Toyota) +2m27.9s
5 Greensmith/Patterson +4m49.3s
6 Fourmaux/Jamoul +4m54.5s
7 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Volkswagen) +9m22.9s
8 Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (M-Sport Ford) +10m57.6s
9 Mads Østberg/Torstein Eriksen (Citroën) +11m42.6s
10 Nikolay Gryazin/Konstantin Aleksandrov (Volkswagen) +12m06.9s