Kalle Rovanperä has put himself in the box seat for a third consecutive World Rally Championship victory, extending his lead over Elfyn Evans on Rally Portugal to nine seconds with only the Fafe superspecial remaining.
Evans, who led the rally for much of Friday and Saturday, had found a glimmer of hope that he could catch Rovanperä for the win after going fastest on the previous test, the first run of Fafe.
But on Felgueiras Rovanperä recouped his earlier losses and then some, winning the stage by 2.7s seconds.
Takamoto Katsuta continues to cling onto the final podium position and keep Toyota’s hopes of a podium lockout alive, gaining 1.4s on Dani Sordo to extend the overall gap to 2.2s.
Any hopes Thierry Neuville had of entering the podium battle on speed are effectively over as, while he went faster than both Katsuta and Sordo on Felgueiras, it was only by 0.2s to the former.
With only the Fafe superspecial left, the 19.5s gap between Neuville and Sordo appears insurmountable.
Craig Breen’s hopes of fending off Ott Tänak for sixth evaporated before Felgueiras even began, as a brake issue struck his Ford Puma.
He’d already lost 50s in late check-in penalties before the stage start, entering the start control five minutes behind schedule.
Breen then coasted through the penultimate stage, dropping a further 1m13.1s.
“Unfortunately it’s an issue that presented itself yesterday evening so it’s disappointing that it’s done this to us now,” lamented Breen at the finish.
Despite haemorrhaging time with his brake fault, Breen has only fallen as far as seventh overall, with 1m30s still in hand over team-mate Adrien Fourmaux.
- Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) 5m54.7s
- Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +2.4s
- Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +2.8s
- Sébastien Ogier/Benjamin Veillas (Toyota) +5.7s
- Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +6.6s
- Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +6.8s
- Dani Sordo/Cándido Carrera (Hyundai) +8.2s
- Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (M-Sport Ford) +10.5s
- Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (M-Sport Ford) +14.5s
- Pierre-Louis Loubet/Landais (M-Sport Ford) +19.7s
Leading Positions after SS20
- Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) 3h37m51.00s
- Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +9.0s
- Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +2m13.00s
- Dani Sordo/Cándido Carrera (Hyundai) +2m15.2s
- Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +2m34.7s
- Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +4m42.6s
- Pierre-Louis Loubet/Landais (M-Sport Ford) +5m20.8s
- Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (M-Sport Ford) +6m25.2s
- Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (M-Sport Ford) +7m55.6s
- Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Hyundai) +12m09.7s