Rovanperä obliterates his rivals on Saturday morning

Three stage wins from three have upped his Rally of Portugal lead to 52.4 seconds

Toyota Portugal

Kalle Rovanperä holds a dominant lead on Rally of Portugal at the end of Saturday’s morning loop, heading to service with a 52.4 second lead over Dani Sordo.

The Toyota driver has grown his lead dramatically over the course of the morning, and on the first three stages of Saturday grew his advantage by 41.6s.

It’s been a controlling and mature drive so far from the world champion, who was naturally satisfied with how the day had played out so far.

“We have done a few good mornings, but this was a really good one,” he explained. “The whole loop was good and we will try to continue like this.”

Behind the rally leader, the battle for second has suddenly unfolded on the day’s second and third stages, with Esapekka Lappi hunting down team-mate Dani Sordo.

Sordo bridged the gap by an extra 1.2s on SS11 but will be pleased to see the service park to regroup ahead of the afternoon loop.

“I don’t like this stage but I tried to push on the limit. I was a little bit over the limit in some places but it’s the only way I can stay close,” he said.

“It’s very difficult to keep a good speed when you want to be clean and fast at the same time.”

Lappi now sits 4.6s behind second place, but he was happy with the performance across the morning loop.

“All OK. The same story as yesterday – I didn’t do this stage last year so it’s a bit of a disadvantage,” he said.

“We are in a good way at the moment and I am satisfied with the car.”

Thierry Neuville meanwhile has found himself gaining no time back on Lappi, and the Hyundai driver said some changes to the set up of his i20 N Rally1 have brought bittersweet results.

“It was a push, for sure. We did a big change on the set-up which was a little bit better but every time the rear goes wide [on corners],” he explained.

“I just cannot commit on the entry [of corners] without having a moment on the exit.”

Neuville is however just 0.9s adrift of Lappi overall.

Ott Tänak entered SS11 in fifth and 34.1s down on Neuville, but he couldn’t do anything to lessen that gap on Felgueiras, dropping 2.1s to the Hyundai ahead.

Takamoto Katsuta suffered a slight scare on the morning’s final stage as he suffered a brief spin when he clipped the side of a bank with the left-rear of the car.

Fortunately there wasn’t any major harm done to his Toyota GR Yaris Rally1, only some slight bodywork damage.

“Very, very slippery,” he said. “It’s another level, like we were driving on ice or something. It’s OK, we are here.”

Words:Adam Proud