Rally Portugal Day 1: Tanak Leads After Sordo Loses Time With Spin

Ott Tanak bounced back from a subdued drive on last month’s Croatia Rally to lead Rallye de Portugal in his Hyundai i20 WRC, after what looked to be a dominant day for Hyundai unravelled on stage seven. Keeping himself on the tails of Dani Sordo throughout the day, he was able to profit from the dramas of stage seven and hold a six second lead.

Tanak took the opening stage by just 0.4 second from teammate Sordo, the Spaniard then held the lead throughout the day, setting a string of fastest times before tyre issues caused him to have to back off, as the tread of the harder Pirelli tyres seemed to coming away from the carcass. This was further compounded with a spin on stage seven which dropped him to third overall.

In second was Toyota’s Elfyn Evans. Keeping the Hyundai’s within arms reach in his Toyota Yaris WRC, the Welshman was the lead Toyota for much of the day and moved into second after stage seven, with a notional time being given to him after being caught up in the dust of Thierry Neuville.

Neuville had been completing what looked to be a perfect first day for Hyundai with all three cars filling the podium positions, but an ambitious pace note on the penultimate stage of the day meant Neuville entered a left hander far too quick and hit his rear right off an object to the side of the road. This pitched the car into a roll which he righted, but despite their efforts to repair at the side of the road the crew had to retire for the day.

Takamoto Katsuta continued his impressive start to the season, having already collected three consecutive sixth place finishes. The Japanese driver had a steady day, briefly being on the podium before Evans’ notional time promoted him back ahead of his team mate. Katsuta would lead a trio of Yaris’ in the top ten at the end of day one as a subdued Sebastien Ogier held fifth overall.

Leading the cars out on the morning loop, the Frenchman would sweep the road for the rest of the crews and was down in a lowly seventh before sharing a fastest stage time on seven with Evans. This propelled the reigning champ up to fifth from seventh overall, a handful of seconds ahead of the final Toyota of Kalle Rovenpera.

Having not completed a WRC stage since February following his retirement four minutes into the last round in Croatia, it was an understandably gentle start to the day for Rovenpera.  He was ultimately to finish the day frustrated with more tyre woes, a theme amongst the drivers, and lost 17.4 seconds on the penultimate stage of the day.

A tough day for Ogier was improved with a late fastest stage time.
Credit: WRC.com

Gus Greensmith surprised everyone posting a time third quickest in his Ford Fiesta WRC on the opening stage, but all that hope was to be undone on stage 3 as a puncture would lose the Brit over 50 seconds and cause substantial damage to the rear left on the Fiesta. With no service and only a tyre zone in the middle of the day, Gus would suffer from the loss of aero for the rest of the stages and finish the day in seventh.

Teammate Adrian Fourmaux was looking to continue the form he produced in Croatia, impressing enough for the M-Sport Ford team to give him his WRC gravel debut on the very next round. The Frenchman was consistently in the top ten stage times until a puncture on seven lost him over 50 seconds dropping him to eight overall. WRC2 front runners Esapekki Lappi and Nikolay Gryazin rounded out the top ten.

1. Ott Tanak – Hyundai i20 WRC
2. Elfyn Evans – Toyota Yaris WRC +6.0
3. Dani Sordo – Hyundai i20 WRC +9.0

FIA World Rally Championship 2

Esapekki Lappi leads the FIA World Rally Championship 2 support series by a narrow 2.2 seconds after a day of trading stage times with fellow VW Polo GTi R5 driver Nikolay Gryazin. The Finn won the category in Arctic Rally Finland and will be eager to add another win to his tally as he enters rallies on a event by event basis. Russian Gryazin was again on the pace, the lead changing numerous times between the pair and he will be looking to score good points after showing good speed in Croatia but rolling out on the final day.

Teemu Suninen was again in WRC2 action in a Ford Fiesta Rally 2 as Adrian Fourmaux filled his WRC seat, finishing the day in third overall. The Finn would be looking to get some time back from the organisers as he felt he lost a few seconds in dust earlier in the day. Being only 9.8 seconds off the lead, any time given back could throw him straight back into a three way battle for the lead.

Oliver Solberg would end the day fourth after the Lousada Super Special Stage, stage seven proving to be a highlight as he stormed to a time 11 seconds quicker than anyone else. Marco Bulacia had a quiet day in fifth overall, making improvements to his driving throughout the day. Reigning champion Mads Ostberg was in a very unhappy sixth place, having a difficult day where he could not get any enjoyment or pace from his Citroen C3 Rally2. A puncture on stage three meant the Norweigan had to stop and change and lost over two minutes.

Martin Prokop (Ford Fiesta Rally2) and Eric Camilli (Citroen C3 Rally2) rounded out the top eight in WRC2, with Tom Kristensson having to retire his Fiesta Rally2 on stage two. Down to rear wheel drive only, the Swedish reigning JWRC champion dropped his car into a ditch and could not get clear.

1. Esapekki Lappi – VW Polo GTi R5
2. Nikolay Gryazin – VW Polo R5 – +2.2
3. Teemu Suninen – Ford Fiesta Rally 2 – +9.8

Esapekki Leads WRC2 after day one in Portugal
Credit: Esapekki Lappi Twitter

FIA World Rally Championship 3

Yohan Rossel led the way in FIA World Rally Championship 3 in his Citroen C3 Rally2 after early leader Jan Solans slid off the road on stage five and retired for the day. Behind him was Polish driver Kajetan Kajetanowicz who was just 3.5 seconds behind in his Skoda Fabia evo Rally2.

The final podium step was filled by Nicolas Ciamin in a Citroen C3 Rally2 and he was just under 18 seconds off the lead. Brit Chris Ingram had a solid day in his Fabia evo Rally2, ending the day 53.5 seconds off the lead in fourth.

It was a day to forget for Emil Lindholm who suffered with two punctures in stage five and six, a third puncture on the road section meant the Finn had to retire for the day with no further spares.

1. Yohan Rossel – Citroen C3 Rally 2
2. Kajetan Kajetanowicz – Skoda Fabia evo Rally2 +3.5
3. Nicolas Ciamin – Citroen C3 Rally2 +17.7

Brit Chris Ingram completed the day in fourth overall.
Credit: Skoda Motorsport

FIA Junior World Rally Championship

It was a tough day in the FIA Junior World Rally Championship for many drivers, as the tough Portuguese roads took their toll on the Ford Fiesta Rally4’s, but Sami Pajari threaded his way through the rocks to leads going into day 2.

He held a 25.7 second lead from Martin Koci, with Martins Sesks 44.5 further back. The day looked to belong to Britain’s Jon Armstrong as he took an early lead and was joined by William Creighton to hold a British 1-2 in JWRC after the morning loop.

A puncture on stage six would lose Armstrong over 3 minutes as the car fell off the jack and Creighton retired on the following stage with a broken driveshaft. Lauri Joona and Robert Badiu were another two retirements suffering driveshaft and steering damage to bring a premature end to their day.

1. Sami Pajari – Ford Fiesta Rally4
2. Martin Koci – Ford Fiesta Rally4 +25.7
3. Martins Sesks – Ford Fiesta Rally4 +44.5

Pajari kept his car out of trouble to hold an overnight lead.
Credit: Sami Pajari Twitter

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