Elfyn Evans’s strong start to Sunday morning on Rally Portugal has continued as the Toyota driver once again outpaced Hyundai rival Dani Sordo to strengthen his grip on the rally lead.
Evans had begun Sunday with a 10.7-second advantage over Sordo, and a superb time on the morning’s opener meant he grabbed 9.6s from the Spaniard to seemingly defuse the battle at the front.
Sordo woke up to the danger on SS17 Montim and was second quickest on the stage, an improvement on his fourth-best effort on SS16, but Evans was still quicker by 1.4s to nudge his lead up to 21.7s with three stages remaining.
Gus Greensmith meanwhile has taken a huge swipe at team-mate Adrien Fourmaux’s fifth place, outpacing his fellow M-Sport driver by six seconds on Montim to trail by just 0.9s now overall.
Both Ford Fiesta WRCs were showing strong pace though with Fourmaux going second-fastest on SS16 and Greensmith stopping the clocks as the third-fastest man on Montim.
Ahead of both on the road are two squabbling Toyotas that no longer appear to be squabbling as reigning champion Sébastien Ogier is looking increasingly secure in third spot.
Takamoto Katsuta, just like he had on Sunday’s opener, looked to be driving with a huge reserve on SS17; potentially in order to put no pressure on his world championship-leading team-mate ahead in third.
Katsuta and Ogier had started Sunday 1.5s apart but after two stages, Ogier is now comfortably 27.6s clear after outpacing Katsuta’s Yaris by 16.2s.
Thierry Neuville’s sedate start to Sunday continued on the second test as he saved his tires for the powerstage, set a time some 25.7s shy of the ultimate pace.
Hyundai team-mate Ott Tänak – carrying no spare tires in his Hyundai – was 15.4s quicker, beating Kalle Rovanperä by 1.3s across the 5.4 miles.
1 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) 5m44.6s
2 Dani Sordo/Borja Rozada (Hyundai) +1.4s
3 Gus Greensmith/Chris Patterson (M-Sport Ford) +3.1s
4 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota) +6.5s
5 Adrien Fourmaux/Renaud Jamoul (M-Sport Ford) +9.1s
6 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +11.7s
Leading positions after SS17
1 Evans/Martin 3h18m58.8s
2 Sordo/Rozada +21.7s
3 Ogier/Ingrassia +1m22.1s
4 Takamoto Katsuta/Daniel Barritt (Toyota) +1m49.7s
6 Greensmith/Patterson +4m40.7s
7 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Volkswagen) +8m55.1s
8 Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (M-Sport Ford) +10m13.1s
9 Mads Østberg/Torstein Eriksen (Citroën) +11m17.3s
10 Nikolay Gryazin/Konstantin Aleksandrov (Volkswagen) +11m29.0s