Rovanperä on cusp of first 2023 WRC victory

He holds a comfortable lead going into the final stage of the Rally of Portugal

Kalle Rovanperä

Kalle Rovanperä is just one stage away from his first World Rally Championship win of the season, as Thierry Neuville continues to struggle with a power problem.

Rovanperä, who absolutely dominated Saturday’s leg to earn himself a relaxed Sunday, holds a 47.8-second lead over Dani Sordo with just the powerstage to go.

But not content with just a rally win, the world champion fully intends to push for all five bonus points there too.

There had been a team orders narrative expected on Sunday with Neuville sandwiched between his two team-mates Sordo and Esapekka Lappi.

But a power problem as early as Sunday’s opening test meant Neuville simply had to survive and get through the day, losing position to Ott Tänak.

On the penultimate stage Neuville lost another couple of minutes but he is still on track to bring home a top-five finish with no Rally1 cars close behind him.

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His frustration, however, was clear.

“I have nothing to add,” Neuville commented at stage-end, without even being asked a question.

Tänak meanwhile has been battling a hybrid problem, but still managed to set the fastest time by some distance on SS18 – winning the test by 9.7s over Sordo.

But that’s likely because everybody else is saving tires for the powerstage, while Tänak has written off his chances of any bonus points with his restricted performance.

Asked about his fast pace on SS18, he replied: “It’s just a faster way to get to the end [of the rally]…”

In WRC2, Gus Greensmith continues to hold the lead after inheriting it overnight following Oliver Solberg’s one-minute penalty for doing donuts between the flying finish and stop control of the Lousada superspecial.

But the Briton’s advantage is diminishing all the time as he lost power-steering on the first pass of Fafe.

On Cabeceiras de Basto, Solberg swiped 6.8s out of Greensmith but Greensmith still leads by 8.7s with just the powerstage left to run.

Words:Luke Barry