Saturday was a stronger day for the Toyota Yaris WRC on Rally Portugal. Jari-Matti Latvala returned to action and put his retirement yesterday firmly behind him, demonstrating his speed by claiming two stage wins. Esapekka Lappi also had a strong day, keeping himself in contention for a podium place in a closely-fought battle.
Restarting under the Rally 2 regulations, Latvala immediately got up to speed and won the first stage of the day, Vieira do Minho, where Lappi was third quickest. The Finnish pair was also in the top three on the third and final stage of the morning loop, Amarante, which was the longest of the rally at 37.6 kilometres. Latvala went on to take another fastest time on the penultimate stage of the day, Cabeceiras de Basto 2.
Throughout the day, Lappi’s times were only bettered by those running behind him on the road, who enjoyed more favourable conditions on the sandy gravel tracks as those at the front swept the road clean. Embroiled in a close fight for fourth, he ended the day 11.1 seconds behind the position, and within 15.8s of third place.
Tommi Mäkinen (Team Principal)
“This has been a positive day for us. We are very, very pleased to see Jari-Matti do so well today, with two fastest times and a very competitive day. The Power Stage will be an important target for him tomorrow. Esapekka meanwhile had a proper fight all day long, it was very tight. He showed that he can keep pushing for the whole day without making mistakes. Eleven seconds is a lot to catch up in the short stages that we have tomorrow, but the rally is still on and I am sure that he will keep pushing.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (Driver car 7)
“I’m really, really happy about today. We had two stage wins, so we know the speed is there. I still have a little bit of margin: particularly this afternoon when it was quite rough in places I was a bit more careful not to break the car, as it has been important for me to have a clean day. The car is fast and I have started to find in myself the speed and confidence. All the elements are now there so we just need to bring it to the end. Tomorrow my approach will be to try and carry on in the same way. I want to be competitive and to do another clean day, and then of course in the Power Stage, I will try to attack and try to get some points. The idea is try to and keep building the confidence ready for Sardinia.”
Esapekka Lappi (Driver car 9)
“It has been a pretty good day. The feeling has been nice with the car and I have been pushing really hard. I don’t think I’ve ever pushed as hard for a whole day, especially this afternoon. I gave it everything, and it was really enjoyable. The guys in front of me have been doing a really good job and it has been hard to take any time out of them, but I’m really happy with my driving and that I could stay on the limit for so long. It was a risky tyre choice this afternoon to go with the hard tyres and it didn’t pay off, but we didn’t lose anything to our rivals either. The gap is quite big going into the final day but I want to keep the pressure on.”
End of day three (Saturday):
1 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) 3h16m30.0s
2 Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +39.8s
3 Dani Sordo/Carlos Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +57.2s
4 Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1m01.9s
5 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1m13.0s
6 Mads Ostberg/Torstein Eriksen (Citroen C3 WRC) +3m14.1s
7 Craig Breen/Scott Martin (Citroen C3 WRC) +4m53.1s
8 Pontus Tidemand/Jonas Andersson (Skoda Fabia R5) +12m52.7s
9 Lukasz Pieniazek/Przemyslaw Mazur (Skoda Fabia R5) +14m12.1s
10 Stephane Lefebvre/Gabin Moreau (Citroen C3 R5) +15m00.4s
31 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +48m54.2s
Retired after day 2 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC)
(Results as of 19:00 on Saturday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)
The final day of Rally Portugal is set to be action-packed, with five stages scheduled. These take place in the Fafe region, including two passes over the Fafe stage itself, the latter as the Power Stage. This includes a famous jump, where last year Esapekka Lappi made an enormous leap that was later voted as the best action moment of the 2017 motorsport season in the FIA awards.
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