Kalle Rovanperä has broken Hyundai’s stranglehold on Rally Portugal by setting the fastest time on SS4 while Dani Sordo extended his rally lead over Ott Tänak.
Sordo, Tänak and Thierry Neuville locked out the top three both on the stages and the overall leaderboard in the morning loop, but that pattern was broken on Friday’s afternoon’s first stage.
While Neuville had consistently been the slowest of the i20 Coupe WRCs across the morning he was the fastest Hyundai on SS4, but was equal third quickest on the stage with Sordo, two seconds adrift of Rovanperä’s benchmark.
Rovanperä, who was as high as fourth earlier in the rally before fading to seventh with a “really bad” set-up aboard his Toyota, made some changes in the tire fitting zone between loops that seems to have done the trick.
“It was helping for sure,” he said of the undisclosed changes. “We just need to now find the completely new set-up for the first loop also.”
The Finn climbed past M-Sport’s top class gravel debutant Adrien Fourmaux into sixth spot in the overall classification, and trails fourth-placed Elfyn Evans by 5.6s and Toyota junior Takamoto Katsuta by 2.0s.
M-Sport took five hard compound tires while the Hyundai and Toyota runners opted for four softs and two hards.
Perhaps that helped Gus Greensmith, who was equal third fastest with Neuville on the first pass of Lousã and went one better on the repeat pass, setting the second fastest time; just 1.4s adrift of the best effort.
“I’m getting closer to that stage win but it’s now starting to annoy me, so we need to get it soon!” he said.
Out front, Sordo outpaced Tänak by 0.9s to carve open a 7.6s lead, with Neuville remaining exactly 10s behind and 2.4s shy of second-placed Tänak.
The closest Toyota is that of Evans and is 18.5s adrift of the lead, 8.5s behind Neuville.
Sébastien Ogier, who continues to open the stages, lost less time than in the morning but was still powerless to fight with the leaders. The championship leader admitted: “At the moment it doesn’t look so good for overall classification but we need to keep pushing and see.”
He lies eighth and is keeping in touch with Fourmaux, lying 3s behind and 28.2s ahead of M-Sport’s Greensmith who’s recovering from an SS3 puncture.
Nikolay Gryazin has nicked 10th place and the WRC2 class lead from Esapekka Lappi, winning the same stage that he had in the morning.
In outpacing Lappi’s Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 by 3.4s, Gryazin moved into a 0.7s lead in his own Polo. M-Sport’s Teemu Suninen was third quickest to lie 7.8s adrift of the class lead.
1 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) 9m02.6s
2 Gus Greensmith/Chris Patterson (M-Sport Ford) +1.4s
3 Dani Sordo/Borja Rozada (Hyundai) +2.0s
4 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +2.0s
5 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +2.9s
6 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +2.9s
Leading positions after SS4
1 Sordo/Rozada 43m03.1s
2 Tänak/Järveoja +7.6s
3 Neuville/Wydaeghe +10.0s
4 Evans/Martin +18.5s
5 Takamoto Katsuta/Daniel Barritt (Toyota) +20.5s
6 Rovanperä/Halttunen +24.1s
7 Adrien Fourmaux/Renaud Jamoul +30.2s
8 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota) +33.2s
9 Gus Greensmith/Chris Patterson (M-Sport Ford) +1m01.4s
10 Nikolay Gryazin/Konstantin Alexandrov (Volkswagen) +2m04.6s