Ott Tänak leads Rally Portugal after three stages, three seconds clear of Kalle Rovanperä. Winner of the first special, Frenchman Pierre-Louis Loubet then fell back in the hierarchy.
It’s time for the fifth round of the World Rally Championship, which takes place this week in Portugal. And it was Ott Tänak who got off to the best start! The Estonian from the M-Sport team took the lead at the end of the first half-day, winning the second of the three stages on the menu. He is three seconds ahead of world champion and defending champion Kalle Rovanperä (Toyota) at the lunch break, and 3″6 on Dani Sordo (Hyundai). Tänak didn’t have any problems on the course, although he had to be careful with his tyres, like almost all the riders, except for Sordo, who was on hard tyres. Forced to open the road, Elfyn Evans (Toyota) struggles on the Portuguese dust and is already 18 seconds behind the leader.
Loubet was off to a good start, but…
Sébastien Ogier, co-leader of the championship with Evans after winning two of the three rallies in which he participated this season, is absent in Portugal, but it was a Frenchman who was at the top of the classification after the first special, Pierre-Louis Loubet, who took off at the wheel of his Ford Puma. He then took too many precautions in the second and lost the lead, before experiencing problems at the finish of the third stage, with smoke coming from his car. He now has time to repair before SS4, but here he is sixth overall at 18″8. Problem also for Takamoto Katsuta (Toyota), stopped in the section before SS3. Five specials are still on the program on Friday between 2:35 p.m. and 8:05 p.m.
RALLY – WRC / PORTUGAL
Ranking after 3 specials (out of 19) – Friday May 12, 2023
1- Ott Tänak – Martin Järveoja (EST-EST / Ford M-Sport) in 33’56″4
2- Kalle Rovanperä – Jonne Halttunen (FIN-FIN / Toyota) at 3″
3- Dani Sordo – Candido Carrera (ESP-ESP/Hyundai) at 3″6
4- Thierry Neuville – Martijin Wydaeghe (BEL-BEL / Hyundai) at 14″6
5- Elfyn Evans – Scott Martin (GBR-GBR/Toyota) at 18″
6- Pierre Louis Loubet – Nicolas Gilsoul (ENG-BEL/M-Sport) at 18″8
Loubet : 1 (ES1)
Tanak: 1 (SS2)
Rovanpera: 1 (SS3)