Tänak replaces Loubet as leader with SS2 victory

He and Dani Sordo are separated by just half a second

Ott Tänak

Ott Tänak has replaced Pierre-Louis Loubet at the front of Rally of Portugal as Loubet slipped to third.

Loubet was fastest through the opening stage to take just the third stage win of his World Rally Championship career, beating Hyundai’s Sordo by a slender 0.3 seconds.

But it was M-Sport team-mate Tänak who set the pace on the second test, Góis, to move into the rally lead.

Even if he still wasn’t totally happy.

“Generally I was struggling a bit with the rhythm,” Tänak said. “I had water leaking on the windscreen and dust was sticking, so it was plenty of work in there.”

Dani Sordo remains second overall, half a second back from new leader Tänak, as Loubet dropped 7.5s to Tänak to trail by 5.2s overall.

Dani Sordo

“I was too careful at the beginning,” Loubet said. “OK, let’s continue.”

Kalle Rovanperä remains in fourth position but now shares it with Toyota team-mate Takamoto Katsuta as he struggled on a different characteristic of stage.

“This one was much, much worse to be honest,” he said.

“Straightaway when we go to this wider road we are having a lot of understeer, we are killing the front tires it’s really s***. We need to do something to the car.”

The other Toyota of Elfyn Evans, who is opening the road on Friday, was struggling too.

“I don’t think it’s completely related to opening the road,” he revealed. “Of course that has an effect but it’s not working as it should be either.”

Evans is currently last of the Rally1 runners in eighth – 16.7s off the lead.


Katsuta wouldn’t stop to make any comment at stage-end, with some sort of coolant leak reported at the end of SS1. It clearly didn’t affect his pace though as he punched in the fourth-fastest time.

He and Rovanperä are both just six tenths behind third-placed Loubet.

Thierry Neuville’s a lot lower down the leaderboard than might have been expected considering his later start position relative to his world championship rivals.

Neuville dropped 8.1s to Tänak, the car immediately in front of him in the running order, but didn’t seem concerned by the time loss.

“I took a lot of care of the tires at the end of the stage, but also we had vibration on the rear-left so we thought we were delaminating,” he said.

The Belgian did overhaul his team-mate Esapekka Lappi on SS2 though, heading him by 1.7s after going 2.7s faster.

The Hyundai pair are sixth and seventh overall, with Lappi 4.2s up on Evans.

Adrien Fourmaux now leads WRC2 by 3.9s over Oliver Solberg after a stunning time on SS2. Teemu Suninen dropped to third, just a single tenth behind Solberg.

Words:Luke Barry