WRC Tanak and Toyota dominate after day of Rally of Portugal


For immediate release
Friday, May 31st, 2019


MATOSINHOS (PORTUGAL): The Estonian duo of Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja led from the third stage and held a lead of 17.3 seconds at the end of day one of the 53rd Vodafone Rally of Portugal on Friday evening.

The Toyota Yaris WRC crew won two timed tests and headed a 1-2-3 for Toyota Gazoo Racing after seven gravel stages held in the heat and dust of a late spring day in central Portugal. Finland’s Jari-Matti Latvala reached the night halt in second overall and Ulster’s Kris Meeke rounded off the top three for the Japanese manufacturer.

Tänak said: “It has been a tough day and challenging. I had a good feeling. We said before the rally that this was a critical day. Now we need to do the rest of the job.”

Teemu Suninen had been challenging Latvala for second place on the sixth stage when he suffered brake issues with the lead Ford Fiesta WRC. The Finn limped to the finish with the loss of nearly a minute and the delay dropped him to sixth. Meeke was the main beneficiary and the third Toyota Yaris WRC driver regained his third position.
Defending World Champion Sébastien Ogier was locked in a fascinating tussle with title rival Thierry Neuville for fifth during the afternoon. The Frenchman was 2.1 seconds ahead of the Belgian through five specials but Neuville moved in front in stage six and reached the night halt 1.6 seconds in front of his great adversary, setting two fastest times into the bargain.

The switch to a relatively short opening leg of just 94.50km, held in the Arganil region for the first time since 2001, threw up some fascinating developments. Fuel-feed related issues plagued both Sébastien Loeb and Dani Sordo in SS3. The Hyundai i20 duo was never able to recover from the 15 and 18 minutes they lost in Arganil 1. It was bitter pill for Sordo to swallow, as the Spaniard had won the first stage and maintained a slender overall lead after SS2.

He said: “I don’t know what happened. At the start of the last stage this morning we had a problem with the fuel. The rally is over for us. When you have a good opportunity in front of you, it is not easy. I was in a good pace and a good position.”

Gus Greensmith made an impressive debut in the third M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC and continued to improve as the day progressed. The Briton reached the night halt in seventh overall and managed to avoid having to open the track for day two.

Finland’s Esapekka Lappi suffered a puncture and overcame a delay in the dust behind Elfyn Evans to finish the day in eighth in the second of the factory Citroën C3s. Event officials agreed to give the Finn back 50 seconds that he had forfeited by running behind the Ford. A throttle sensor issue had cost Evans fifth in his Ford Fiesta, but the Welshman managed to overcome the four-minute on-stage delay to reach the night halt in the lower reaches of the top 20.

Kalle Rovanperä was the WRC 2 Pro category pace-setter after the opening loop of three stages, but the Finn dropped over a minute in SS4 with a puncture and then began a determined fight back on deteriorating stage surfaces to finish the leg just 4.8 seconds behind Czech team-mate Jan Kopecký in the second new Škoda Fabia R5 Evo, the latter making his first WRC appearance since Spain last autumn and rounding off the top 10.

Ole-Christien Veiby led Takamuto Katsuta by six-tenths of a second in WRC 2 after three stages, but a puncture for the Japanese in stage six opened the door for the Norwegian to finish the day with a comfortable lead of 25.2 seconds over Russian Nikolay Gryazin. The young Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 driver also found himself ahead of all the WRC 2 Pro drivers in a superb ninth overall.

Friday afternoon – as it happened

Ogier led his rivals into the second pass through Lousã and the start of the repeat of the morning’s loop of three stages in central Portugal. He shaved 15 seconds off his morning’s run on the cleaning stage surface, as loose rocks and a more abrasive track made it even harder going for the tyres.

Both Loeb (1min 10sec) and Sordo (I1min 20sec) incurred road penalties after their third stage woes. A tying Suninen and Latvala looked to be heading for the fastest time until Sordo posted a flying run of 8min 59.sec to claim a second stage win of the day.

Tänak retained a lead of 5.4 seconds to take to Góis - the longest special of leg one. Ogier was the first to complete the stage, 12 seconds faster than the time he had set in the morning, but Evans ground to a halt and had lost four minutes by the time he had discovered a niggling throttle sensor issue.

Lappi found himself driving the stage in the Welshman’s dust as a result, as Tänak reached the start of Arganil with an advantage of 8.8 seconds after Latvala opted to conserve his tyres. An impressive fastest time by Suninen lifted the Finn in front of Meeke and into third overall but there were further on-stage delays for Sordo, courtesy of a front-left puncture.

Arganil 2 took place in the heat of the late afternoon. Ogier and Neuville had been separated by 2.1 seconds before the stage and the Belgian managed to sneak ahead of his rival in SS6 to guarantee a better starting position for Saturday, his Hyundai setting the quickest time as a bonus.

Latvala stalled at a hairpin and ran the risk of ceding second place to Suninen, but his fellow Finn was also in serious trouble and dropped 58 seconds with brake problems and plummeted to sixth overall.

The action concluded with a stage of 3.36km in front of massive crowds at the Lousada rally cross track on Friday evening. Sordo and Loeb were the first pair to entertain the masses, but the spectators had to wait a further 45 minutes to see leader Tänak start the short test with a 15.2-second advantage over Latvala.

Loeb carded the early target of 2min 41.5sec, but the Lousada stage win eventually fell to fourth-placed Neuville with a 2min 35.5sec run.


Day two is by the far the longest and most difficult of this year’s Vodafone Rally of Portugal and the fact that crews will tackle 160.70 competitive kilometres was the reason drivers placed so much importance on a good performance on Friday to guarantee a better starting position for day two.

Action gets underway with the 20.53km of the Vieiro do Minho stage, north-east of Matosinhos, from 08.38hrs and continues with runs through Caberceiras de Basto (22.22km) and Amarante (37.60km) from 09.31hrs and 10.47hrs.

The three timed tests will then be repeated on Saturday afternoon from 15.08hrs, 16.01hrs and 17.17hrs after a return to the Service Park at Exponor for a midday regroup and service stop.

2019 Vodafone Rally of Portugal – positions after SS7:
1. Ott Tänak (EST)/Martin Järveoja (EST) Toyota Yaris WRC 1hr 03min 26.7sec
2. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN)/Miikka Anttila (FIN) Toyota Yaris WRC 1hr 03min 44.0sec
3. Kris Meeke (GBR)/Sebastian Marshall (GBR) Toyota Yaris WRC 1hr 03min 49.5sec
4. Thierry Neuville (BEL)/Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL) Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 1hr 03min 50.9sec
5. Sébastien Ogier (FRA)/Julien Ingrassia (FRA) Citroën C3 WRC 1hr 03min 52.5sec
6. Teemu Suninen (FIN)/Marko Salminen (FIN) Ford Fiesta WRC 1hr 04min 42.4sec
7. Gus Greensmith (GBR)/Elliott Edmondson (GBR) Ford Fiesta WRC 1hr 04min 48.8sec
8. Esapekka Lappi (FIN)/Janne Ferm (FIN) Citroën C3 WRC 1hr 04min 50.4sec


For further media information:
Miguel Fonseca, National Rally Press Officer, email: press.motorsport@acp.pt and Lluisa Torras, International Media Relations, email: lluisa.torras@acp.pt, Mobile: +34 629 924073.








Date issued: 31/05/2019

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