Rovanpera extends WRC lead with victory in Portugal Car News

With the dust having settled on Rally Portugal, the result is 21-year-old Toyota driver Kalle Rovanperä extending his championship lead – the youngest to ever lead the series.

But that’s far from the full story. Portugal – always known to be the first good indicator of what the true pecking order is, after a series of specialist events that open the World Rally Championship (WRC) season – contained as many twists as a stage of Corsican mountain, with conditions as extreme as the devotion shown by the famous passionate fans of Portugal. Here’s how it happened:

Remarkable Rovanperä

It shouldn’t be possible to win in Portugal first on the road, and certainly not when it’s your first time in that position on a gravel rally. Rovanpera was only 10th fastest on Friday’s first stage but found himself the winner, having now won three rebound rallies on three totally different surfaces. Not only that, but he also earned a maximum of five points in the last Power Stage.

After four of 13 rounds, Rovanperä now hold a 46-point championship lead over Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville – who is on course to be unassailable. Toyota’s advantage at the top of the manufacturers’ ranking (again over Hyundai) is 59 points.

GR Yaris excellent on gravel

As the first gravel event of the season, Portugal provided the toughest test yet for the new generation of Rally1 hybrid cars.

The Toyota GR Yaris was the class of the peloton, winning 15 of 19 gravel stages and coming incredibly close to a podium lockout – denied only by a power surge from Hyundai veteran Dani Sordo to edge ahead of Takamoto Katsuta.

Despite this being at Sordo first event in a latest-generation hybrid car (he shares part of the program with Oliver Solberg), the Spaniard was disappointed at the end of Rally Portugal. “It’s not a real third place,” he said. “We haven’t been that fast all weekend.”

There is no country for old people

The new era of the WRC began in January with the legendary Sébastiens Loeb and Ogier dominating Rallye Monte-Carlo and showing some full-time drivers. Both reappeared in Portugal but saw their hopes of victory ended on Friday afternoon: Loeb of M-Sport with a rare error a few meters from the Fifth Special when he was in the lead, Ogier with a pair of punctures on his Toyota shortly after. The two encountered further problems after restarting on Saturday morning as well, sending them to the retirement list for the second time.

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This notice was published: 2022-05-23 09:53:28

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