Loeb steals Portugal lead from Evans with Arganil win

The M-Sport driver dominated SS4 with Evans failing to hold his lead


Sébastien Loeb has vaulted himself into the lead of Rally Portugal, winning the first pass of Arganil to elevate himself from seventh to first.

Nine-time World Rally champion Loeb had a somewhat subdued start to the rally and had suffered with dust entering the cockpit of his Ford Puma Rally1 on Góis.

But the overall order was turned upside down on Arganil as Loeb charged to the front, taking advantage of an uneven performance from incumbent rally leader Elfyn Evans.

“I tried hard,” said Loeb. “I had a very good stage I think. For what I can do at the moment, it was a good drive.”


Evans could only muster the fifth-fastest time on Arganil and dropped 0.5s behind Loeb in the overall order, with the Toyota driver unhappy with his own performance.

“Not perfect to be honest,” he said of his run on Arganil. “It’s one of them. The grip is not so high, sometimes I’m pushing a bit too much, and others not enough. Not so happy with that one.”

A strategy ploy by Thierry Neuville to back off on Góis to save his tires for Arganil paid dividends, as he shot up the order from ninth to third, going only 2.8s off Loeb’s pace.

Neuville’s Hyundai team-mate Ott Tänak was unhappy with the balance of his i20 Rally1 and was at odds with his car, yet remains in the thick of the fight.


The 2019 world champion is a mere 5.4s off the top spot and, incredibly, is tied for fourth with championship leader Kalle Rovanperä.

On paper Rovanperä was expected to struggle as first car on the road and that fear had borne true on the opening stage, Lousã, where he’d fallen to 10th overall.

But halfway through his maiden gravel rally as road-opener on the first day, he is within touching distance of the lead.

Returning world champion Sébastien Ogier is a mere 6.7s off the top spot yet down in sixth place.  Fourth-fastest on Arganil was his best run on the rally so far but he was still unhappy with his performance.


“To be honest, I’m pushing,” said Ogier. “I don’t know how to go faster at the moment so we need to analyse faster at the moment.” You or the car? “No idea, maybe a bit of both.”

A frustrated Craig Breen is seventh overall, still managing problems with dust entering the cockpit of his Ford Puma.

“I tried to smash the door shut as best I could. But the problem then is I’m sweating and it starts to stick onto the glasses,” he said.

SS4 Results

  1. Sébastien Loeb/Isabelle Galmiche (M-Sport Ford) 11m48.0s
  2. Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +2.8s
  3. Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) +6.1s
  4. Sébastien Ogier/Benjamin Veillas (Toyota) +8.6s
  5. Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +10.6s
  6. Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +10.8s
  7. Pierre-Louis Loubet/Landais (M-Sport Ford) +12.4s
  8. Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (M-Sport Ford) +13.3s
  9. Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +13.5s
  10. Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (M-Sport Ford) +16.2s

Leading positions after SS4

  1. Sébastien Loeb/Isabelle Galmiche (M-Sport Ford) 36m51.1s
  2. Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +0.5s
  3. Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +3.3s
  4. Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +5.7s
  5. Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) +5.7s
  6. Sébastien Ogier/Benjamin Veillas (Toyota) +6.7s
  7. Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (M-Sport Ford) +11.8s
  8. Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +13.0s
  9. Dani Sordo/Cándido Carrera (Hyundai) +15.1s
  10. Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (M-Sport Ford) +20.6s