Flying Tanak clinches his first victory in Portugal

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Ott Tänak claimed one of the hardest earned victories of his short rallying career after an enthralling Rally Portugal’s final leg on Sunday.

The 31-year-old Estonian confirmed his ninth career WRC win and his seventh with the Toyota team. A third triumph of the season to follow successes in Sweden and Chile also enabled the Yaris driver to move to within two points of six-time FIA World Champion Sébastien Ogier at the top of the Drivers’ Championship after seven rounds.

He was pushed hard by Toyota team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Kris Meeke for one and a half days, overcame brake and suspension issues of his own and maintained his composure when both his Yaris colleagues hit trouble.

He and co-driver Martin Järveoja, crossed the finish line of the final stage 15.9 seconds in front of Belgian title rival Thierry Neuville, the winner even managing to avoid winning the Power Stage that would have given him the series lead and a distinct starting position disadvantage at the next round in Sardinia.

Tänak’s previous best finish in Portugal had been fourth overall in 2017 with the M-Sport World Rally Team. The success was also the first for Toyota in Portugal as a full counting round of the FIA WRC since Finland’s Juha Kankkunen won the event back in 1994 with a Group B Toyota Celica Turbo 4WD.

Neuville now holds third in the title race in his Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC and now trails by 10 points in what is again developing into a gripping three-way title race.

A penultimate stage spin at a hairpin proved costly for Kris Meeke and it deprived Toyota of the 1-2 finish they had sought. But it got much worse for the Ulsterman when he spun again at speed in the Power Stage and damaged the Yaris that came to rest across the track. The cruel mistake cost Meeke his place in the rally and gifted Sébastien Ogier an unlikely podium finish.
 
Ogier had opted to cruise through the first four stage s of the morning to conserve his tyres for a final push on the Power Stage. The Frenchman was rewarded with the five bonus points but the downside was that he continues to lead the championship and will open the road in Sardinia later this month.
 
Esapekka Lappi survived a gently roll in Montim on Sunday morning, clipped a banking and then damaged the rear right suspension in Fafe. The Finn attempted to repair the Citroën C3’s suspension en route to Luilhas, but it was not to be and the unlucky Finn retired from sixth place.
 
Teemu Suninen inherited a place after Lappi’s mishap on the day’s opener and the Finn eventually brought the first of the M-Sport Ford Fiestas home in fourth overall. Team-mate Elfyn Evans moved up to sixth when Lappi’s retirement was confirmed and then finished fifth to give the Blue Oval a useful haul of much-needed Manufacturers’ points. It had been a trying weekend for the Welshman after the four minutes he lost with a throttle connector issue on day one.
 
Jari-Matti Latvala disposed of FIA WRC 2 front-runner Pierre-Louis Loubet to enter the top 10 in the third Toyota and eventually finished seventh after Meeke and Lappi retired. It was small reward for the veteran Finn, who had claimed two stage wins and pushed the eventual winner hard for the lead on day two.
 
Gus Greensmith enjoyed an impressive debut in a World Rally Car. He had been running as high as seventh overall on day two, before planting the factory Ford Fiesta WRC in a ditch. The Briton recovered well and held 11th until he wrecked the Fiesta’s front suspension after a heavy landing and a crash on the Fafe jump on the Power Stage.
 
Both Sébastien Loeb and Dani Sordo followed Hyundai’s team orders to support team-mate Neuville after their day one fuel issues. Sordo had led the rally outright for two stages on Friday and set two fastest times, but it was a disappointing event for the duo, exacerbated by last stage suspension woes and a late retirement for Loeb.
 
Sixth-placed Kalle Rovanperä dominated the FIA WRC 2 Pro category to take the championship lead. He finished 1min 07.7sec in front of Czech team-mate Jan Kopecký. Both drivers delivered impressive performances in the new factory Škoda Fabia R5 Evos to give the Czech car a 1-2 finish on its WRC debut. A series of punctures had ruined Mads Østberg’s challenge in the Citroën C3 R5 and he finished in a distant third place. The Norwegian had the consolation of claiming all five stage wins on the final morning. 
 
Corsican Pierre-Louis Loubet held his nerve to confirm victory from Sweden’s Emil Bergkvist and Norwegian veteran Henning Solberg in WRC 2. Mexico’s Benito Guerra continues to lead the FIA WRC 2 Championship after Ole Christian Veiby’s premature retirement.

2019 Rally Portugal - Final provisonal results

Pos. Driver/Co-Driver Car Time
1

1. Ott Tänak (EST) / Martin Järveoja (EST)                         

Toyota Yaris WRC 3hr 20min 22.8sec
2 2. Thierry Neuville (BEL) / Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL) Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 3hr 20min 38.7sec 
3 3. Sébastien Ogier (FRA) / Julien Ingrassia (FRA) Citroën C3 WRC 3hr 21min 19.9sec
4 4. Teemu Suninen (FIN) / Marko Salminen (FIN) Ford Fiesta WRC 3hr 23min 04.3sec
5 5. Elfyn Evans (GBR) / Scott Martin (GBR) Ford Fiesta WRC 3hr 27min 31.1sec
6 6. Kalle Rovanperä (FIN) / Jonne Halttunen (FIN) - WRC 2 Pro Škoda Fabia R5 Evo 3hr 30min 57.0sec
7 7. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN)/Miikka Anttila (FIN) Toyota Yaris WRC Toyota Yaris WRC 3hr 31min 51.0sec
8 8. Jan Kopecký (CZE) / Pavel Dresler (CZE) - WRC 2 Pro Škoda Fabia R5 Evo 3hr 32min 04.7sec
9 9. Pierre-Louis Loubet (FRA) / Vincent Landais (FRA) - WRC 2 Škoda Fabia R5 3hr 33min 09.1sec
10 10. Emil Bergkvist (SWE) / Patrik Barth (SWE) - WRC 2 Ford Fiesta R5 3hr 34min 51.2sec

 

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