Ogier chasing down Rovanperä for Portugal lead

Toyota's two world champions have a small lead over the chasing pack on Rally Portugal


Kalle Rovanperä leads Rally Portugal by a single second from Toyota team-mate Sébastien Ogier, following a frenetic Friday on the roads around Arganil.

Both world champions had been forced to give best to Takamoto Katsuta’s GR Yaris Rally1 through the morning, but his grip on the lead was weakened on the afternoon’s opener.

The Japanese could only manage fifth fastest on the repeated Lousã stage. Rovanperä’s second quickest run eased the #69 car to the front by the smallest margin possible. Of equal concern to Katsuta was Ogier’s scratch time, which moved the Gap star into third.

What played out across the next three stages was a quite astonishing display of just how close these drivers are matched. In the nine miles of Góis, Rovanperä doubled his lead at the top of the table… to two tenths of a second. Penultimate test done and the leader could breathe easy, he was a full second to the good over the Japanese.

Ogier’s Yaris was shorn of hybrid boost for half of Arganil 2, but a powercycle ahead of the final stage worked its magic and the Frenchman was on an absolute flier, 3.2s faster than anybody.


Ott Tänak is the only Hyundai still in the lead battle, as Toyota took control during the Friday afternoon loop

“It’s a nice way to end the day,” smiled the eight-time champion who goes into the weekend in second place.

Leader Rovanperä admitted his day had been a tough one.

“It’s been a great battle,” he said, “but my rear tires are in a bad condition. We were just surviving.”

Katsuta’s third, 4.7s off the front and just seven-tenths up on top Hyundai runner Ott Tänak. The Estonian struggled to get everything hooked up through day one, but putting his i20 N Rally1 on its doorhandles was enough to keep him very much in the heat of the battle.

The top four are split by just 5.4s.

Elfyn Evans

Evans has endured something of a torrid time aboard his Toyota. The Welshman is 1m43.2s off the lead at the end of day one

Dani Sordo is fifth, winning another stage this afternoon, to add to the two he bagged in the morning. His Hyundai is two-tenths ahead of Thierry Neuville, the Belgian having coped admirably with the worst of the loose conditions at the head of the field.

While Neuville might be just 18.1s down, his sixth place means he will still be compromised by the running order on Saturday. Adrien Fourmaux (M-Sport Ford), Elfyn Evans (Toyota) and Grégoire Munster (M-Sport Ford) will run ahead of him on the road – they end Friday seventh, eighth and ninth respectively.

Evans was among the day’s most disgruntled drivers, admitting: “You couldn’t write it today. Nothing’s gone our way.”

It certainly didn’t when co-driver Scott Martin left his pacenote book at the end of a stage, forcing him to read the notes from photographs on his mobile telephone.

Oliver Solberg rounds out the top 10 and leads WRC2 in his Škoda.