WRC Ott Tanak heads Toyota 1-2-3 after three stages in Portugal
For immediate release
Friday, May 31st, 2019
TÄNAK HEADS TOYOTA 1-2-3 AFTER THREE STAGES IN PORTUGAL
MATOSINHOS (PORTUGAL): The Estonian duo of Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja headed a Toyota 1-2-3 and held a slender lead of 6.9 seconds after the first loop of three special stages of the 53rd Vodafone Rally of Portugal in the area around Arganil on Friday morning.
Finland’s Jari-Matti Latvala was his closest rival after a dramatic morning and the Estonian’s team-mate reached the tyre fitting zone a further 7.1 seconds in front of Ulster’s Kris Meeke.
Used for the first time since 2001, what had previously gained a reputation for being fog-shrouded and muddy specials were a far cry from those seen all those years ago. High temperatures and hanging dust were prevalent and rally officials introduced four-minute intervals to alleviate a potential visibility issue.
Spaniard Dani Sordo won the opening stage in his Hyundai i20 WRC and maintained a 0.5-second advantage through SS2, but the Hyundai i20 driver agonisingly spluttered through the Arganil special with fuel issues. He was forced to stop on several occasions as his winning aspirations disappeared with the loss of 18 minutes.
Defending World Champion Sébastien Ogier suffered from opening the road and the resultant stage-sweeping duties. The Frenchman finished the loop in sixth place in the first of two Citroën C3 WRCs. The M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Fiestas of Teemu Suninen and Elfyn Evans held fourth and fifth.
Sébastien Loeb was ninth overall after SS2, but the nine-time World Champion stopped in the third stage with his own fuel-related issues and crawled to the finish 15 minutes behind the stage winner. Thierry Neuville’s seventh place was Hyundai’s only glimmer of hope from a dismal morning in the Portuguese dust and heat.
A puncture cost Esapekka Lappi any chance of finishing the first loop in the top five and the Finn was ninth behind England’s Gus Greensmith, the latter making a solid start to his debut with a Ford World Rally Car.
At the wheel of his new Škoda Fabia R5 Evo, 10th-placed Kalle Rovanperä held a WRC 2 Pro category advantage of 27.9 seconds over team-mate Jan Kopecký after Norway’s Mads Østberg suffered issues after the second stage and did not start the Arganil special on schedule.
Friday morning – as it happened
As the leader of the championship, Ogier was handed the unenviable task of opening the road for the first day – two loops of three stages in central Portugal in an area around Arganil that had not hosted the rally since 2001.
With high temperatures, little wind and the risk of hanging dust potentially helping the Frenchman to a small extent, the defending World Champion carded the target time of 9min 22.4sec through the 12.35km of the first Lousä stage. Four minute intervals were used on this occasion but the Frenchman was still acting as a road-sweeper.
He ceded 11.3 seconds to series rival Tänak, even though the Estonian complained of hanging dust and his own sweeping duties. Neuville also dropped 10.4 seconds to the flying Toyota driver and only Suninen, Latvala Evans and Meeke could stay in touch with the early leader in the dust-shrouded opener until a flying Sordo set the fastest time of 9min 06.9sec.
The second Góis stage ran for 18.78km and Ogier could only manage a 12min 25sec target time after ongoing stage-cleaning duties and dropped another 5.3 seconds to his Estonian title rival. Neuville stalled and took his time to restart at a junction and Meeke moaned about an intercom failure for the whole stage.
Latvala was concerned about tyre wear and dropped just one second to Tänak and Sordo maintained his outright lead, despite losing 3.7 seconds to the Estonian trying to conserve his tyres for the third Arganil stage of 14.41km.
Rovanperä had set the fastest WRC 2 Pro category time through the day’s opener in the new Škoda Fabia R5 Evo and the Finn increased his lead over Østberg to 17 seconds after Góis.
Tänak stopped the clocks in exactly nine minutes in Arganil to finish the loop 14 seconds in front of Meeke. Loeb suffered devastating fuel issues and lost any chance of taking a third Portugal win,
Lappi sustained a front-left puncture and lost over a minute and a distraught Sordo saw his dream of leading at the break disappear after stopping in the stage with his own intermittent fuel issues and the loss of 18 precious minutes.
For further media information:
Miguel Fonseca, National Rally Press Officer, email: firstname.lastname@example.org and Lluisa Torras, International Media Relations, email: email@example.com, Mobile: +34 629 924073.