TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team driver Kalle Rovanperä leads by almost a minute with one day to go at the Rally de Portugal after dominating Saturday’s stages.
Following a strong performance on Friday’s opening day from second on the road, Rovanperä came into the longest day of the rally with a lead of 10.8 seconds. He more than doubled that advantage with a storming drive in the first stage of the day, going quickest by 12.8s in the classic Vieira do Minho test.
More caution was required in the subsequent Amarante – the longest stage of the season so far at 37.24 kilometres – but he still substantially increased his lead to 45.8s. That became 52.4s at the end of the morning loop after he completed a hat-trick of stage wins in the much shorter Felgueiras.
In the afternoon, Rovanperä came incredibly close to repeating that feat across the three mountain stages, missing out only by 0.7s in a rough second pass of Amarante. After the side-by-side Lousada super special stage that rounded out the day, Rovanperä’s lead stands at 57.5s.
Takamoto Katsuta was able to return to action under restart rules this morning following the technical issue that brought him to a halt on Friday. He faced the most slippery conditions opening the road for most of the day, but did post the second-best time in Lousada.
After the accident of Elfyn Evans in SS7 on Friday and an inspection of the damaged car, the team took the decision to retire it from the rally. Both Evans and his co-driver Scott Martin were cleared following routine medical checks last night and will now prepare for the next round in Sardinia.
Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal)
“Today we have seen amazing speed from Kalle, and he’s been able to control it with no mistakes. We could see this kind of performance from him quite often last year, and I think it’s maybe just taken a little bit of time this season for things to be in the right place for him. Now everything is clicking nicely: he’s very happy with the car and when he has this good feeling then he is able to attack very hard. Even when he didn’t need to push so much this afternoon, he was still taking stage wins, so it seems to be coming easily to him. Still, there is one more day to go but hopefully everything continues to go well and he can maintain this same good feeling that he’s had up to this point.”
Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)
“It has been a really nice day. After yesterday we changed some small things on the car and the feeling was even better than before, so now we have just been enjoying the driving. The first stage this morning actually felt quite tricky with the grip changing a lot, but I knew that I had a good feeling in the car and I just kept pushing quite hard; I knew I could take some time if everything goes right. After that I just carried on with the good feeling. This afternoon I tried to keep up the pace when the conditions were good, and when it was rough we backed off and I think we did quite well to save the car and the tyres. We can feel quite comfortable now, and tomorrow we will aim to have a clean morning and then try something on the Power Stage also.”
Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)
“Yesterday was a difficult day. We knew that it would be tough with the cleaning effect, but we also struggled a little bit with the confidence and feeling in the car. Things were working better and I definitely had a better feeling in the Mortágua stage, but I just got caught out in a tricky place. It was a pretty fast section with a couple of left-handers together; the second one was a bit more sandy and slippery and we just slid ever so slightly wide into the bank, which pitched the car into an aggressive roll. Scott and I are both perfectly fine, so the car has done its job really well in protecting us, and I’m looking forward to getting back behind the wheel in Sardinia.”
Takamoto Katsuta (Driver car 18)
“Today I knew it was going to be a big challenge opening the road but it was still nice to get experience of how to manage these kinds of conditions. This morning it was very slippery and sandy, like it is every year on the Saturday stages here; a lot of loose gravel on top of the surface which is making traction difficult. The conditions were much rougher this afternoon, more than I had expected. There was still lots of cleaning too after the smaller cars had driven the stages with ruts and lines that are completely different. Tomorrow I need to bring the car back to the finish but let’s see how it’s going in the morning, especially in the first pass of Fafe. If I’m feeling comfortable I’ll try to push in the Power Stage to get extra points for the team.”
End of day two (Saturday):
1 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) 2h59m48.6s
2 Dani Sordo/Cándido Carrera (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +57.5s
3 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +1m08.6s
4 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +1m10.9s
5 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +2m21.8s
6 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +8m08.3s
7 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +8m43.7s
8 Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +9m36.7s
9 Yohan Rossel/Arnaud Dunand (Citroën C3 Rally2) +9m58.1s
10 Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Hyundai i20 Rally2) +11m13.2s
36 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +1h02m02.4s
Retired Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID)
(Results as of 20:40 on Saturday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)
As usual, the final day in Portugal is centred around the famous Fafe stage; venue for two of the final four tests including the rally-ending Power Stage. There are also single runs through Paredes (an extended version of Thursday’s shakedown) and Cabeceiras de Basto, forming a total of 55.42 competitive kilometres.
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