Rovanperä wins Rally Portugal

Kalle Rovanperä made a return to FIA World Rally Championship form with a commanding victory on Vodafone Rally de Portugal, his second consecutive triumph at the Matosinhos-based event. The reigning champion had not stood atop the podium since his title-winning run in New Zealand last season, but now carries a 17-point advantage over M-Sport's Ott Tänak five events into this 13-rally season.

The Finn seized control of the rally when Tänak suffered wheel damage Friday afternoon and established a 10.7-second lead by the end of the opening leg. Then on Saturday, the Toyota GR Yaris man scored five stage wins to widen the gap to 57.5sec before negotiating Sunday's four-stage finale 54.7sec clear of second-placed Dani Sordo.

Esapekka Lappi made it two Hyundai i20 N cars in the top three, scoring his second podium finish in as many rallies. His result helped Hyundai to stay within 32 points of championship-leading manufacturer Toyota Gazoo Racing. Hyundai's Thierry Neuville began the day in third, but a broken turbocharger left his Hyundai down on power and time ebbed away as he limped through the closing stages, allowing M-Sport Ford Puma man Ott Tänak to claim fourth overall while Neuville was forced to settle for fifth.

Possibly driving better than he did while contesting WRC1 with M-Sport, Gus Greensmith won a battle with Oliver Solberg to win WRC2, with both Skoda Fabia teammates finishing with WRC1 points in 6th and 7th overall. Solberg was given a one-minute time penalty after the stewards considered his 'donuts' after the flying finish breached the sporting code! The Skoda crew apologized and stated they were unaware of the regulations and thought they had performed a good show for spectators, adding that in their opinion they had not created an unsafe situation. Completing the top ten were the WRC cars of Andreas Mikkelsen, Yohan Rossel and Teemu Suninen.

Joint championship leader after Rally Croatia, Elfyn Evans, suffered badly from a lack of grip at the head of the field and clipped a bank, rolling six times into retirement in a big accident which destroyed the Rally Croatia winner's Toyota Yaris. Evans and co-driver Scott Martin were taken to hospital for check-ups before being given the all-clear. It was the Welshman's first non-finish since Rally New Zealand 2022.

The WRC now moves to the Mediterranean island of Sardinia when competitors face more hot weather and rough roads on Rally Italia Sardegna, based in Olbia 1/4 June.

18th May, 2023