Lappi grabs third from Neuville, Rovanperä dominates

The fight for third is looking like an all-Hyundai scrap as rally leader Kalle Rovanperä set the pace


Thierry Neuville lost third place to Hyundai team-mate Esapekka Lappi on Saturday’s first stage, as Kalle Rovanperä more than doubled his lead with a dominant stage time.

Heading into Saturday, Neuville sat 0.9 seconds ahead of Pierre-Louis Loubet, with Lappi 1.3s behind.

And while Loubet couldn’t make any inroads on the final podium position, Lappi exceled on the tricky 16.53-mile Vieira do Minho stage to grab two positions in one.

Taking 2.2s out of Neuville put him 0.9s ahead overall in the standings, but it wasn’t all straightforward for the new podium-sitter.

“It felt horrible. I said to Janne [Ferm, co-driver] that I have no grip,” he said.

“It’s better this way for sure, but it felt really like I was going to lose 20 seconds.”

Neuville wasn’t pleased with his performance to start the first loop of Saturday and was unhappy with the feeling of his Hyundai i20 N Rally1.

“Not a very good feeling to be honest. I don’t trust the grip and I don’t trust the rear of the car,” he said.

“I am very often at full lock and just losing time with no traction.”

Loubet struggled to provide an answer in the battle for third, losing time to the pair of Hyundais, dropping to fifth and 7.5s shy of Neuville ahead.

Meanwhile rally leader Rovanperä started the day with an incredible pass of SS9, winning the stage and extending his lead by a healthy 13.3s.

That meant his advantage over Dani Sordo extended to 24.1s.

Further down the order Ott Tänak is a distant sixth, with Loubet 34.5s up the road.

Following a broken alternator on his Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 on Friday morning, Takamoto Katsuta returned to action and will now be focused on making it through cleanly to Sunday’s powerstage to gather some points.

“I didn’t drive so much yesterday so it’s nice to be in the car now,” he explained. “It seems like everything is fine but it’s just super, super slippery. I didn’t enjoy it so much, it’s very sandy.”

Words :Adam Proud