Ogier wins for M-Sport in Portugal

Who would bet against Sebastien Ogier adding the 2017 World Rally Championship to his four WRC titles after he sealed victory in Portugal, his first win since his M Sport Ford debut in Monte Carlo in January. The French driver took control of the second half of a rally that had been wide open throughout its first leg as many as six different drivers had led in a constantly fluid battle at the front with under 10 seconds covering the battle.

That jostling group began to break up on Friday afternoon, when Jari-Matti Latvala rolled his Toyota while second, Kris Meeke broke his Citroens suspension while pushing to get back into the lead and Hayden Paddons Hyundai was stopped by an electrical problem for 11 minutes while a close third and Ott Tanak emerged in the lead, despite slightly damaging his M-Sport Ford on Fridays penultimate full length stage.

Ogier had been as low as eighth while running first on the road, but started making progress through Friday afternoons stages and a win on Saturdays opener brought him up to second behind his rally-leading team-mate but Tanak fought back with a blistering time on the next stage that brought his lead back up to six seconds, but then on the next stage he broke his Fiesta rear suspension and tumbled out of victory contention, leaving Ogier free to control the rest of the event.

Neuville made his way through to second ahead of Hyundai team mate Dani Sordo despite initially struggling with his smooth driving style on a rally that favoured a more sideways approach that left him a mystified 12th on Friday morning before he adjusted his approach and regained ground.
Tanak recovered to fourth and secured three bonus points for the fastest time on the Powerstage - ahead of Craig Breen, who was in the lead fight before breaking a damper in his Citroen on Friday afternoon. Elfyn Evans was also in the thick of things early on, before two punctures consigned him to sixth, not the only DMACK World Rally Car runner this time as Mads Ostberg had made an eleventh-hour switch for his privately-entered Ford but a puncture dropped Ostberg back on Friday and he finished eighth.

Toyotas first event with a three-car line-up brought seventh, ninth and 10th with Juho Hanninen, the delayed Latvala and Esapekka Lappi on his first start for the manufacturer and he matched Hanninens pace for much of the weekend until a holed intercooler then suspension damage cost him ground.
Meeke and Paddon spent the weekend running well down the order under Rally2 after their Friday dramas, while Stephane Lefebvre was also well outside the points in the third Citroen following a leg one crash. Andreas Mikkelsen had utterly dominated WRC2 for Skoda and held a lead of more than three minutes, before a roll on the Powerstage gifted victory to his team-mate Pontus Tidemand.

Top Ten Results
Position ..... Crew ..... Team ..... Time/Difference
1 Sebastien Ogier/J.Ingrassia M-Sport World Rally Team 3h42m55.7s
2 Thierry Neuville/N.Gilsoul Hyundai Motorsport 15.6s
3 Dani Sordo/M.Marti Hyundai Motorsport 1m01.7s
4 Ott Tanak/M.Jarveoja M-Sport World Rally Team 1m30.2s
5 Craig Breen/S.Martin Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT 1m57.4s
6 Elfyn Evans/D.Barritt M-Sport World Rally Team 3m10.6s
7 Juho Hanninen/K.Lindstrom Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC 3m48.9s
8 Mads Ostberg/O.Floene M-Sport World Rally Team 5m29.7s
9 Jari-Matti Latvala/M.Anttila Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC 5m43.6s
10 Esapekka Lappi/J.Ferm Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC 8m13.3s

21st May, 2017