Ogier takes 60th career WRC win in Portugal

Ott Tänak couldn't quite catch Ogier on Sunday, ensuring the eight-time champion set new records


Sébastien Ogier scored the 60th victory of his World Rally Championship career on Rally Portugal, becoming the most successful driver in the history of the rally in the process.

Coming into the rally Ogier was tied with Markku Alén on five wins and nine podiums; his success puts him alone at the top of the pile in Rally Portugal history.

In classic Ogier fashion, the eight-time world champion bided his time and picked his moment to push as others faltered. At one point in the early running he was down in sixth place – but a dominant turn of speed on Friday’s final stage, Mortágua, lifted him to second and thrust him into the lead battle.

His competitors fell away one by one: Thierry Neuville clouted a bank and damaged his Hyundai, setting the championship leader back. Kalle Rovanperä clipped a tree stump after overshooting a corner and rolled into a tree, then Takamoto Katsuta whacked a bank and retired with broken suspension.

That left only Hyundai’s Ott Tänak as a contender for victory. Ogier had initially gapped the 2019 world champion but Tänak fought back on Sunday morning, whittling the lead gap down to 10.1s before the powerstage.

In the end Tänak simply ran out of stage mileage to catch Ogier; he ended up 7.9s behind and Ogier clinched his record-breaking victory.

“I had nothing against being tied against Markku Alén, he’s a legend,” said Ogier at the finish. “I’ve heard this refrain for many years now: when are you going to beat this record? I don’t know! But now it finally happened. So now I’m happy.

“Not a fantastic weekend for the whole team but I did my best to bring maximum points for them. It’s a good feeling.”

Tänak missed out on powerstage victory to Neuville by 0.1s but wasn’t too disappointed; he’d managed to score maximum Sunday points ahead of his championship-leading team-mate by 2.4s despite still feeling somewhat uncomfortable aboard the i20 N Rally1.

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Ott Tänak's 26-point haul from Portugal lifts him to third in the championship

“It’s been a demanding weekend but we tried our best,” said Tänak. “Normally it doesn’t work out in rallying like this. If you don’t feel good in the car and you go full attack it doesn’t end up well. But this weekend it paid off so I’m very glad and hopefully we can improve the situation a bit.

Neuville has strengthened his lead in the drivers’ championship after a difficult rally for nearest rival Evans.

Hyundai’s longest-serving driver struggled with road position on Friday afternoon and had started to fall back, only to find himself back in the podium places a day later when others encountered strife.

What will matter most to Neuville is his points haul: with a strong road position on Sunday he was able to open the taps on his i20 N Rally1 and finish second in the Sunday classification. Along with his powerstage victory, it meant he put 24 points on the board across the rally.

That was in stark contrast to Evans, who endured a nightmare rally.

Among the early starters on Friday morning he’d struggled the most with his road position and was already falling back before the a puncture on stage seven that cost him nearly a minute. Co-driver Scott Martin had also left his pace note book at the finish control of the previous test, leaving him to call notes while reading from his mobile phone.

Evans ended Saturday in sixth but his points were at risk on the penultimate stage when his GR Yaris Rally1 began to overheat. He switched to EV mode to finish the stage, then enacted repairs on the road section before the powerstage.


Evans lost 18 points to title rival Neuville thanks to the litany of issues he faced

Those repairs held up for the powerstage but Evans wasn’t quite on the front-running pace, so he failed to score any powerstage points in addition to missing out on Sunday bonuses. Toyota’s de facto team leader is now 24 points adrift of Neuville in the title race.

Difficult rallies for Evans, Rovanperä and Katsuta also allowed Hyundai to pounce in the manufacturers’ championship: it now leads Toyota by four points.

Behind the podium positions, Adrien Fourmaux was able to overhaul Dani Sordo for fourth place on Sunday, as Sordo was slow to get going in the foggy conditions of Cabeceiras de Basto and dropped over half a minute.

Neither driver was able to pick up powerstage points; both were beaten to the punch by Katsuta, who went fifth-fastest and fifth on Sunday to pick up a total of four bonus points.

Katsuta was emotional at the finish line, as it emerged a close family member had died during the week of the rally: “This is a very personal thing but I lost a very important person in my family on Monday,” said Katsuta. “It was very difficult to focus. My family is fighting so I had to fight as well. Finally, we are here. I wanted to achieve a good result for him. Hopefully next time.”

Tänak’s healthy points haul from Portugal has demoted Fourmaux down to fourth in the drivers’ championship. But Fourmaux was keen to look at the positives, namely that he’ll start further down the order on the gravel roads of Rally Italy: “We have lost one position in the championship, maybe two,” he said before the world champions finished Fafe and confirmed their points haul. “But it could help us for Sardinia, the next rally.”

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Both Kalle Rovanperä and Oliver Solberg's weekends were defined by crashes on the Montim test

Rovanperä picked up a handful of bonus points for finishing sixth in the Sunday classification and third on the powerstage, though it was scant consolation for crashing out of the lead on Saturday morning.

Grégoire Munster failed to finish the rally in the second M-Sport car; he was pulled into a half-spin by a rut on the inside of a corner on the penultimate test, which left his car beached. With no spectators around, he was unable to extricate his Ford Puma in time and finish the rally.

A thrilling battle for WRC2 victory between Jan Solans and Josh McErlean was won by the Spaniard, who took an unexpected maiden WRC2 victory and in the process gave the Toyota GR Yaris Rally2 its first win at world championship level.

Portugal’s reputation for attrition came to the fore in the support category. First to fall was title contender Sami Pajari, who broke a wheel on the opening superspecial on Thursday night. That cost him several minutes in lateness penalties as he fixed it roadside the following morning.

Both Teemu Suninen and Pierre-Louis Loubet were starting their WRC2 seasons in Portugal. Both also had early finishes to the rally with big crashes on Friday; in Suninen’s case he ran well off the road on Arganil and catapulted rear-over-front. Neither returned under super rally rules.

Oliver Solberg had established an early lead but his rally ended 100 metres up the road from Rovanperä. He became distracted by the stricken Toyota and in the momentary lapse of concentration misheard a pace note, causing him to hit a bank and roll his car over multiple times.

Jan Solans

Jan Solans emerged victorious in WRC2 as more experienced rivals ran into trouble

That gave the lead to Citroën’s Yohan Rossel for all of two stages, until he cut a right-hander too aggressively, hit a rock and stopped to change a wheel. He lost two minutes at the time, then another minute in penalties for setting off again before co-driver Arnaud Dunand had fastened up his belts. Rossel had also forgotten to seat his HANS device correctly.

Rossel’s woe was compounded further on Sunday morning when he received a further one minute penalty, this time for checking out of parc fermé a minute earlier than required. He finished eighth in WRC2 after his penalties.

Toksport’s Gus Greensmith had inherited the lead from Rossel but he too succumbed to the Portuguese stages, going off up a bank and getting his Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 beached on Felgueiras.

That left McErlean and Solans to battle it out for top spot. Solans took the lead from McErlean on Saturday’s penultimate stage, extended the gap to eight seconds then capitulated the top spot on Sunday morning as the Motorsport Ireland driver went full send through Sunday’s early morning fog.

In the end, their battle was settled by a dominant stage win by Solans on the second pass through Cabeceiras de Basto, which he won by 6.5s.

Lauri Joona completed the podium places to secure his maiden WRC2 podium. Nikolay Gryazin was the fastest Rally2 car across the rally but wasn’t registered for drivers’ championship points, though his DG Sport Automotive team takes maximum points in the teams’ championship.