Rovanperä takes narrow lead as Evans has pacenote drama

Takamoto Katsuta has lost the lead to his Toyota team-mate – while Elfyn Evans had a nightmare on SS7

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Kalle Rovanperä and his Toyota team-mate Takamoto Katsuta are separated by only 0.2s after eight stages of Rally Portugal – but Elfyn Evans ran into trouble on the Góis test.

Early rally leader Katsuta has been outpaced by his World Rally Championship title-winning team-mates on Friday afternoon, ceding the top spot to Rovanperä on stage six. Sébastien Ogier took third to create a Toyota one-two-three and is closing in on Katsuta, with the pair now separated by only 1.5s.

But it wasn’t all cause for celebration in the Toyota camp. Despite taking the lead, Rovanperä indicated all wasn’t well with how his GR Yaris Rally1 was set up: “We are nowhere near with the car where we should be,” he said. “I cannot really drive so clean, understeer and everything is making the tire wear worse and worse. It’s all the time quite s***.”

But of the four Toyotas, Elfyn Evans suffered by far the worst fate. He was already running eighth, battling with Adrien Fourmaux ahead, but Góis cost him almost a minute.

Evans’ co-driver Scott Martin accidentally left his pacenote book at the stop control for stage six, so had to read the notes for Góis from a mobile phone instead. Then mid-stage a tire came off the front-right rim of Evans’ car, compounding his woe.

Hyundai’s three cars are now running-four-five-six but all are within touch of the leading Toyotas. Ott Tänak is only 1.9s behind third-placed Ogier ahead of Dani Sordo, who won the second pass of Goís to take fifth away from championship leader Thierry Neuville.

Neuville’s co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe had a drama of his own at the end of stage six, remonstrating with the stop control officials for several minutes before moving on to the next road section.

Adrien Fourmaux is now running a very safe seventh overall, 54.8s up on Evans. Grégoire Munster in the second M-Sport car is now 35.53s behind Evans.

Oliver Solberg’s lead in WRC2 over Yohan Rossel has been slashed to 1.5s, as the Toksport driver complained that his car was dropping “to three cylinders” under low revs.