Ott Tänak has retired from the lead of Rally Portugal, stopping near the end of the Amarante stage with his Hyundai’s rear-right wheel dislodged, as Toyota’s Kalle Rovanperä also retired from the rally.
Tänak held a 22.4-second advantage over Elfyn Evans before the stage and was going quicker than the Toyota driver through the early splits before disaster struck.
It is not yet clear how Tänak damaged his rear-right wheel, but WRC TV’s helicopter picked up the i20 Coupe WRC struggling through the stage with the wheel bobbling around in the wheel arch, working its way loose.
The problem soon became undriveable and Tänak was forced to pull over by the side of the stage and retire.
It's a shame because he’s done such a fantastic rally and his pace was incredible so you can’t take that away from himElfyn Evans after hearing of Ott Tänak's retirement
Evans is therefore the new rally leader, holding a 16.4s advantage over Dani Sordo after beating him by 5.1s on Amarante.
Upon hearing the news about Tänak, Evans said: “OK, well that’s a shame because he’s done such a fantastic rally up until now and his pace was incredible so you can’t take that away from him.
“I was happy with my stage to be fair, it was clean and tidy.”
Rovanperä, meanwhile, had set the second-quickest time on the previous test and looked to be on a roll but has now surrendered his sixth position overall due to what the Toyota team has described as a “technical issue”.
Cameras on the WRC’s All Live service showed Rovanperä driving his Yaris WRC along a road section with his headset on and overalls tired around his waist on the minute he was meant to begin the Amarante stage.
Replays then showed co-driver Jonne Halttunen fitting the radiator guard plate back onto the Yaris before confirmation came through that the pair would be heading back to service and not starting Amarante or the Porto – Foz street stage that will conclude the day.
Takamoto Katsuta looked set to overhaul team-mate Sébastien Ogier for what is now third position on Amarante but a couple of lively events throughout the test meant he ultimately lost 2.1s keeping him 2.5s behind in fourth overall.
Katsuta first nudged an Armco barrier with the rear-left of his Toyota and then he arrived at the stop control sporting damage on the opposite corner of the car.
He explained: “Maybe seven, eight kilometers from the finish [in a] very narrow section, tight left corner there was some bedrock on the ground as I went wide, hit the tree and luckily we could survive.”
The electrical throttle problem that blighted Gus Greensmith on the previous stage persisted on Amarante; a particularly painful experience on this test given it was 23.56 miles long.
Greensmith hemorrhaged 1m08.1s to his team-mate Adrien Fourmaux meaning Fourmaux has closed up to just 7.7s behind overall. But Greensmith still moved up two positions to fifth following Tänak’s and Rovanperä’s retirements.
“We know what the issue is but there’s nothing I can do about it,” said Greensmith at the end of SS14.
“When it comes on: stop. When it goes away: start again. We’ve still got tomorrow to have a bit of fun.”
The crazy attrition rate lifted WRC2 leader Esapekka Lappi into seventh position overall now, and his advantage in the category is comfortable as M-Sport’s Teemu Suninen appeared to run into problems.
Suninen lost 19.4s to Lappi on Amarante, gifting his former M-Sport team-mate a 35.6s advantage out front.
Oliver Solberg was also in the wars, suffering a half-spin at a tightening right-hand bed and getting his Hyundai i20 R5 beached on an earth bank.
He then struggled to engage reverse gear, which cost him over a minute to Lappi on the stage. A livid Solberg smashed the gear lever after the flying finish several times before composing himself for a post-stage interview.
“We stalled it and I couldn’t get it started,” he said. “Had to get it into reverse and this didn’t work.
“Ah this was such a good stage, such a good stage. I probably lost that third place now.”
Solberg did indeed lose third place in class to Mads Østberg but still climbed into the overall top 10. He is 16.2s adrift of Østberg’s Citroën C3 Rally2.
1 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +24m21s
2 Dani Sordo/Borja Rozada (Hyundai) +5.1s
3 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota) +8.1s
4 Takamoto Katsuta/Daniel Barritt (Toyota) +10.2s
5 Adrien Fourmaux/Renaud Jamoul (M-Sport Ford) +27s
6 Mads Østberg/Torstein Eriksen (TRT Citroën) +57s
Leading positions after SS14
1 Evans/Martin +3h03.59.3s
2 Sordo/Rozada +16.4s
3 Ogier/Ingrassia +1m04.6s
4 Katsuta/Barritt +1m07.1s
5 Gus Greensmith/Chris Patterson (M-Sport Ford) +4m14.5s
6 Fourmaux/Jamoul (M-Sport Ford) +4m22.2s
7 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Volkswagen) +8m22.4s
8 Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (M-Sport Ford) +8m58s
9 Østberg/Eriksen +10m48.6s
10 Nikolay Gryazin/Konstantin Aleksandrov (Movisport Volkswagen) +11m02.1s