Rovanperä overhauls Sordo to move into Portugal lead

The reigning WRC champion is the fourth different leader in five stages

Toyota Portugal

Kalle Rovanperä has become the fourth different leader in five stages of Rally of Portugal, overhauling Hyundai driver Dani Sordo.

After Ott Tänak’s front-right tire came off the rim on the first stage of Friday afternoon, Sordo moved into the lead of the rally to head an event for the first time in the hybrid Rally1 era.

But that advantage was just 0.4 seconds over reigning world champion Rovanperä, and with Rovanperä banging in his second fastest time of the weekend on SS5 he has now rocketed into the lead by 0.8s.

“I just tried to have a clean run,” Rovanperä said.

“Really rough stage and definitely at the beginning I was a bit too careful, but I just tried to be careful and have a good pace.”

Sordo had been as much as 2.6s down on Rovanperä at the halfway point of the stage, but clawed time back to finish just 1.2s slower come stage-end.

Dani Sordo

“It was very, very hard for the tires, it’s difficult to keep them well. I didn’t want to overdrive, so I need to have a look now and let’s see.

“I feel like I was not pushing really, really strong but it’s because I didn’t want to damage the tires.”

Thierry Neuville remains third place after losing just 0.4s to stage winner Rovanperä to trail by 14.2s overall.

Pierre-Louis Loubet remains fourth, but lost 1.9s to Neuville to trail by 3.6s.

Esapekka Lappi, who won the previous test, is 5.1s adrift after struggling to replicate the same feeling on SS5.

Ott Tänak was quicker than first car on the road Elfyn Evans on SS5 but has been forced to measure his pace with no more spare tires following his issue on the previous stage.

“I have no more tires so I have nothing to protect, so I need to get through,” he said.

Tänak is seventh, 22.1s adrift of Evans in sixth.

Words:Luke Barry