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WRC live, Rally Portugal:Ogier breaks records

Séb Ogier, Portogallo 2024

Sébastien Ogier became the first driver to achieve six Vodafone Rally de Portugal victories on Sunday, powering to glory 7.9sec clear of his Hyundai Motorsport rival Ott Tänak.

In a spectacular display of skill and determination, Sébastien Ogier cemented his status as a rallying legend by securing his sixth Vodafone Rally de Portugal victory on Sunday. The French ace powered to glory, finishing 7.9 seconds ahead of his Hyundai Motorsport rival Ott Tänak. This remarkable achievement not only secured Ogier’s place in the annals of rallying history but also marked him as the most successful driver in the event’s 56-year history. Rally de Portugal, a founding round of the FIA World Rally Championship since 1973, had previously seen Ogier share the record with Finnish WRC legend Markku Alén, but now he stands alone at the top.

The rally, which traversed grueling gravel roads near the northern Portuguese cities of Porto and Matosinhos, saw five different drivers take the lead, captivating tens of thousands of passionate fans along the way. Ogier’s path to victory was not without its challenges. He seized the top spot on a tumultuous Saturday, during which his Toyota GR Yaris teammate Kalle Rovanperä suffered a roll out of the lead and Takamoto Katsuta retired with shattered rear suspension.

Heading into Sunday’s four-stage finale, Ogier held an 11.9-second advantage over Tänak and managed to keep his cool, fending off the Estonian’s advances and soaring high over the legendary Fafe jump to clinch victory in style. Reflecting on his historic win, Ogier remarked, “I had nothing against being tied with Markku Alén. He is a legend, but I heard for many years ‘when will you beat this record?'”

For Tänak, second place marked his best result since rejoining Hyundai at the beginning of the year. His strong performance, coupled with topping the Super Sunday classification, propelled him ahead of Adrien Fourmaux to third in the championship standings. Meanwhile, Thierry Neuville secured the final podium spot, extending his drivers’ series lead to 24 points over Elfyn Evans, who endured a challenging week, finishing down in sixth after overcoming a coolant leakage.

As competitors now turn their sights to Rally Italia Sardegna later this month, they can expect more hot weather and rough roads. Based in Alghero from May 30th, the Mediterranean island will provide another thrilling chapter in the WRC season.

Saturday: the great adventures of Ogier

Morning rich in emotions at the Portugal Rally and a more “linear” afternoon with Sébastien Ogier skillfully defending himself from Ott Tänak’s attacks. The Frenchman from Toyota closes the second stage with an 11.9-second advantage over the Estonian from Hyundai, while Thierry Neuville holds onto third place tightly, allowing him to gain points over a struggling Elfyn Evans.

Out in the morning were both Rovanpera and Katsuta, and all hopes of Toyota winning the Lusitanian race rested on Ogier’s shoulders. In the first two afternoon stages, Tänak clawed back about four seconds on the Frenchman who, as announced, launched his attack on the over 37 kilometers of the second pass on Amarante. There, the Toyota driver regained the four seconds on his opponent, while in the last two specials of the day, he simply focused on control. “It’s been a good day,” said Ogier. “A complicated stage, we didn’t expect so many things to happen. Unfortunately for Toyota, it wasn’t a perfect day. It went well for me, but we lost two cars. We need to try to finish the job tomorrow,” he added.

The revolution at the front of the race favored Thierry Neuville, who finished the day 59.5 seconds behind teammate Tänak after climbing from sixth to third place. With the main title rival Elfyn Evans in sixth position, the Belgian is set to increase his championship lead, and his Saturday position will earn him 13 points provided he completes the race. Neuville overtook Dani Sordo in the first stage of the stage, but the Spaniard remained close to his teammate, finishing the day 14.2 seconds behind him. Behind the Spaniard by only 7.3 seconds was M-Sport driver Adrien Fourmaux, who has a lead of almost two minutes over a struggling Evans.

Among the Rally2 drivers, Nikolay Gryazin leads, seventh overall, with his Citroën C3, but Jan Solans is the first of the drivers fighting for WRC2 as the Russian with a Bulgarian license decided not to score points in Portugal. Completing the top ten are Josh McErlean and Yohan Rossel. Many surprises also in WRC2. Saturday morning, provisional leader Oliver Solberg hit when, with a lapse of concentration, he was passing Rovanpera’s stationary Yaris. At that point, Yohan Rossel passed him, but he had to change a wheel on Paredes 1, losing over 1’30” seconds. The new leader, therefore, became Gus Greensmith who, however, went wide in PS14 and stopped on a embankment. The leadership then passed to the Irishman Josh McErlean who then had to yield to the Spaniard Solans because of tire issues. “It was absolutely fantastic,” confessed the Toyota driver. “We are leading WRC2. Today has been a perfect day, and we must continue to push because there is still a long way to go.” Škoda drivers Lauri Joona and Fabrizio Zaldivar completed the top five, while Roope Korhonen is sixth.

1 Sébastien Ogier/Vincent Landais (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) 3h01m55.8s
2 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +11.9s
3 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +1m11.4s
4 Dani Sordo/Cándido Carrera (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +1m25.6s
5 Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +1m32.9s
6 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +3m23.8s
7 Nikolay Gryazin/Konstantin Aleksandrov (Citroën C3 Rally2) +9m25.5s
8 Jan Solans/Rodrigo Sanjuan (Toyota GR Yaris Rally2) +9m35.2s
9 Josh McErlean/James Fulton (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +9m43.2s
10 Yohan Rossel/Arnaud Dunand (Citroën C3 Rally2) +9m46.8s
TBC Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +1h10m04.4s
TBC Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +1h19m42.0s

Ogier, Portogallo 2024
Ogier, Portogallo 2024

Analysis of the Toyota escalation performance

Saturday was the longest day of the rally with 145.02 competitive kilometres to be driven on classic stages north-east of Porto. After a close-fought Friday, Kalle Rovanperä began the day leading team-mate Ogier by just one second, and increased his lead to 6.7s in the first stage of the morning. Unfortunately, his charge would come to an abrupt end on the following test when he ran wide and clipped a tree stump, sending his car onto its side. Rovanperä and co-driver Jonne Halttunen were unhurt and will be able to return under restart rules tomorrow.

Takamoto Katsuta began the day in third position overall but would sadly join Rovanperä on the sidelines after sustaining damaged rear suspension when he hit a bank in SS12. He too will restart tomorrow. Ogier meanwhile gained the rally lead with a stage win in SS11, briefly conceding first position in SS12 to Ott Tänak (Hyundai) by 0.2s, before an impressive time in SS13 helped him to take an advantage of 13.6s back to mid-day service.

The afternoon would be the longest loop of the rally with tyre management a key factor, and although Ogier conceded some time across the first two stages, he would regain it with stage wins in the second passes of Amarante (the longest stage of the season so far at 37.24 km) and Paredes. After the side-by-side Lousada super special that rounded out the day, his lead over Tänak stands at 11.9s. Recovering places after losing time on a tough Friday, Elfyn Evans reached the end of Saturday in sixth position overall and will look to secure more points towards his championship challenge on Super Sunday, where up to 12 points are available.

Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal): After a very good Friday it’s certainly been more mixed for the team today. It was a bit of a shock to lose Kalle and Taka from the fight this morning, but the competition has been intense and when you try to push more and take time, mistakes can happen – especially when the grip levels are changing. At the same time, Seb could keep up the battle and we can be very pleased tonight that he was able to finish Saturday at the top of the leaderboard: hopefully he can finish there tomorrow afternoon as well and secure another victory. Elfyn, after his problems yesterday, did a solid job today, thinking about the championship, driving consistently and collecting good points. Now everything is open going into Sunday with a lot of points available if you can do a good day.”

Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69): This morning started well. We definitely had a better feeling today with the car setup and could do a good time in the first stage. But then in the second one I just missed my braking point in a fairly straightforward place and we went off. There was a bit of confusion with the pacenote in the previous corner and I was maybe still thinking about that and missed the braking point. But it was my mistake in the end and it’s a big disappointment – especially when we started strongly, and I think it could have been a good day for us. Now we’ll try to do our best for the team tomorrow.”

Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33): “Today was always going to be difficult with our road position. It was tricky to make up any places on pace alone, so we were mainly trying to learn and find a better feeling with the car, playing with a few things in the setup and trying to put something better together for tomorrow. Some things were improved, some things not so much and we were still struggling with the balance. Our road position should at least be a bit better tomorrow so there’s an opportunity there and we need to try our best.”

Sébastien Ogier (Driver car 17): It’s been a good day for us. It was a tricky one: we didn’t expect so many things to happen this morning, and unfortunately for our team we lost two cars. But I was happy with my consistency and I was able to push in some key moments to make a bit of a difference. This afternoon was very demanding. In the first two stages I lost a bit of ground but I planned to push on Amarante and luckily it worked well for us and we managed to create a bit more of a gap again. Now we have to finish the job tomorrow: the gap is not enough for us to relax. There are still a lot of kilometres and some new sections.”

Takamoto Katsuta (Driver car 18): “Today’s stages were a bit more sandy like we expected. Still, the car was working well and it was very nice to drive. I tried to manage the pace in the first two stages but was not really in a good rhythm. Then in the third stage I pushed from the beginning, I felt very good and like everything was under control. But in one place I slightly lost the line and went a bit wide and hit the bank on the outside. Right now it’s very disappointing because I had the pace, it was looking good and I still had room to push more. It’s hard to accept but this is rallying, so I just need to understand what.”

WRC2

Jan Solans is on the verge of securing his maiden WRC2 victory following a tumultuous Saturday at Vodafone Rally de Portugal, where he vaulted from fourth to first. Several of the premier support category’s big names ran into trouble on this penultimate day, which consisted of two loops of four classic gravel stages totalling almost 150km of competitive action.

Overnight leader Oliver Solberg was the first casualty. A momentary lapse of concentration while passing Kalle Rovanperä’s stricken Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 on SS11 caused the Swede to veer wide, rolling his Škoda Fabia RS into retirement. He will not restart on Sunday.

Solberg’s exit propelled Yohan Rossel, who arrived in Portugal tied on points with Solberg, to the forefront. However, the Frenchman’s time at the top was short-lived as he had to stop to change a wheel on his Citroën C3 in Paredes 1, losing over 1min 30sec. Gus Greensmith became the third leader of the day, but just when it seemed that no more drama was possible, the Briton ran wide on a low-speed right-hander during SS14 and beached his Škoda on an embankment.

Josh McErlean, piloting a Fabia under the Toksport banner, was then elevated into the lead. The Irishman topped the standings for three stages before dropping behind Solans with his tyres heavily worn. The pair were split by just 8.0sec at close of play with Rossel just 3.0sec further back.

“It’s been absolutely amazing,” Solans beamed. “We are leading WRC2 and it’s been really consistent. Today was a perfect day and we need to keep pushing because there is still a long way to go.”

Despite the unscheduled wheel change, it was generally a positive day for Rossel. The issues faced by Solberg and Greensmith have put him on track to go clear at the top of the championship standings after this fifth round of the season. Škoda drivers Lauri Joona and Fabrizio Zaldivar rounded out the top five while Roope Korhonen, who nursed an engine issue on his Toyota through Friday, ended sixth.

WRC3

Diego Dominguez secured four stage wins on Saturday to extend his lead at the top of the WRC3 standings at Vodafone Rally de Portugal. A sublime display of pace ensured the Ford Fiesta Rally3 star ended the penultimate day top of the leaderboard with a sizeable 1min 49.5sec buffer over Frenchman Mattéo Chatillon.

Fellow South American runner Bruno Bulacia was similarly on the limit, as he also recorded three stage wins in the morning and sat just 2.3sec behind Dominguez at the conclusion of SS15. However, his Fiesta Rally3’s engine overheated on SS16 and the Bolivian slumped to third. Penalty-hit Czech driver Jan Ćerny was fourth after being penalised by one minute for arriving late to the arrival control before SS10. Chatillon’s compatriots Ghjuvanni Rossi and Tristan Charpentier completed the top six with four stages remaining on Sunday

Séb Ogier takes the lead

Sébastien Ogier vaulted into the lead of Vodafone Rally de Portugal as his Toyota Gazoo Racing colleagues Kalle Rovanperä and Takamoto Katsuta suffered heartbreak on a brutal Saturday morning. Just as overnight leader Rovanperä seemed poised to consolidate his position at the top at this fifth round of the season, the two-time world champion misjudged a right-hand bend in Montim – running wide and clipping a tree that sent his GR Yaris Rally1 rolling into retirement,

Ogier was thrust into the lead going into the morning’s penultimate stage at Amarante, but further misfortune struck the Japanese manufacturer squad in the 37km stage as Katsuta, who had lost position to Hyundai’s Ott Tänak earlier in the morning, was forced to park his crippled Toyota at the roadside with smashed rear suspension.

Tänak dominated Amarante, outpacing Ogier by 3.6sec to become the fifth different rally leader in 12 special stages. However, rear tyre damage for the Estonian in Paredes allowed Frenchman Ogier to regain control late in the loop, taking a 13.6sec lead to service.

“It was a big push in the last one, but honestly it hasn’t been so different since the start of the rally,” Ogier said. “We’re giving it everything we have.”

The drama up ahead brought more good news for Thierry Neuville, who finished the morning 40.8sec behind team-mate Tänak after climbing from sixth to third. Despite stalling his i20 N at a hairpin, the Belgian driver is poised to extend his championship lead – which stood at six points before this rally – over Elfyn Evans with the Welshman currently down in sixth overall.

Spain’s Dani Sordo made it three Hyundais in the top four, trailing Tänak by 3.6sec having dropped behind his colleague in the first stage of the day. M-Sport Ford man Adrien Fourmaux was 20.4sec further back in fifth with a 1min 20.9sec buffer to Evans, who was delayed by a spin on SS11.

Grégoire Munster had a disastrous run through Amarante, pulling over twice and dropping over six minutes as he tried to diagnose a mysterious powertrain fault. Initially suspecting an alternator fault, Munster later discovered that was not the case and the issue appeared to rectify itself.

Accident Kalle Rovanpera, Portugal 2024
Accident Kalle Rovanpera, Portugal 2024

Accident for Rovanpera

Kalle Rovanperä’s bid for a triumphant third consecutive victory at the Vodafone Rally de Portugal came to an abrupt halt on Saturday morning. The Finnish sensation, who had been dominating the rally, saw his hopes dashed as his Toyota GR Yaris took an unexpected tumble in the Montim stage.

The day started promisingly for Rovanperä, with a commanding win in Saturday’s opening stage at Felgueiras. With his eyes set on extending his lead in the 2024 FIA World Rally Championship, he seemed poised for another stellar performance. However, fate had other plans.

As Rovanperä navigated a fast right-hander over a crest, a misjudgment led to a collision with a tree on the outside of the corner. The impact sent his car into a roll, putting an end to his aspirations for victory. Fortunately, both Rovanperä and his co-driver Jonne Halttunen emerged from the incident unharmed, but their rally was over for the day.

The drama didn’t end there, as Oliver Solberg, who had been leading the WRC2 category overnight, suffered a similar fate. Shortly after passing Rovanperä’s stranded car, Solberg lost control on a right-hand corner, resulting in a roll of his Škoda Fabia RS Rally2.

With both Rovanperä and Solberg sidelined, the rally lead shifted to Sébastien Ogier, while Yohan Rossel claimed the top spot in WRC2.

The unexpected turn of events added a new layer of excitement to the Rally de Portugal, highlighting the unpredictable nature of rally racing and the fine margins between success and disaster on the demanding stages of the World Rally Championship.

Friday, Rovanpera full attack

At the end of the first day at Rally Portugal, the situation has turned around. Kalle Rovanpera takes the lead with just one second advantage over his teammate Sebastien Ogier, and 4.7 seconds ahead of Takamoto Katsuta, who was leading after the morning loop. The clean road conditions after the previous passes have leveled the performance, and the drivers going out first in the morning have significantly improved their pace. Toyota dominates the first day, with the three Hyundai cars chasing behind.

Tanak is ahead of Sordo and Neuville, while Fourmaux is seventh with the Ford. Evans, in eighth place, had a disastrous day after Scott Martin lost the notebook with the pace notes and had to dictate them from memory on the phone. The Welsh driver also suffered a puncture, losing about a minute. Ninth place goes to Gregoire Munster, who closes the Rally1 classification with the Ford Puma.

The Rally Portugal is proving to be very spectacular and exciting, and the presence of spectators at the special stages is as enthusiastic as ever. The crowd cheers on the cars passionately but in a correct and safe manner. With such small gaps, everything is still open, and the second day will be crucial for the outcome of the race.

  • Takamoto Katsuta: “Not nice to lose a position for tomorrow.”
  • Sebastien Ogier: “I think it is nice to finish the day like this. We hace some issue with hybrid before the stage, fortunately working on stage.”
  • Ott Tanak: “The roads are much better than previous years. Not able to push more.”
  • Elfyn Evans: “We have to pay the price for a bad Friday. We will try to get points on Sunday.”
  • Adrien Fourmaux: “I’m happy with my pace today, unfortunately tomorrow we will have the same starting position as today.”
Gus Greensmith

WRC2

Entering this rally tied for the championship lead with Citroën C3 rival Yohan Rossel, Solberg trailed the Frenchman after Thursday’s super special stage at Figueira da Foz. However, once the gravel road tests kicked off on Friday morning, the youngster wasted no time in asserting his dominance. Solberg stormed into the lead on Friday’s opener and, though briefly overtaken by his Toksport team-mate Gus Greensmith at Góis 1, he swiftly regained control over the iconic Arganil stage before midday.

With soaring temperatures and the terrain growing increasingly rocky and rutted, preserving tyres was paramount during the afternoon loop. Solberg found himself grappling with a mysterious misfire which left his car’s engine running on three cylinders and evening cutting out, but some committed driving from the 22-year-old meant he was able to limit the time loss and hold onto the lead.

“In the middle [of the last stage] it cut out completely,” he explained. “I thought I had lost at least 10 seconds there. I tried to push in places but we definitely lost a lot of time.”

Meanwhile Greensmith was battling his own mechanical woes, nursing a faulty starter motor through the afternoon. Despite closing the gap to Solberg to just a tenth of a second, a costly spin in the final stage saw him slip to third behind Rossel.

Fourth place was occupied by Spain’s Jan Solans, almost a minute further back in his Toyota GR Yaris Rally2. Behind him was Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy hotshot Josh McErlean, who posted an impressive second-best time on his first gravel stage behind the wheel of a Škoda.

Solans led McErlean in the battle for WRC2 Challenger honours while local driver Paulo Neto topped the WRC Masters Cup leaderboard.

WRC3

Renault Clio hotshot Pieri had led the category with two stage wins in both the morning and the afternoon under his belt. He and co-driver Alexis Maillefert were unhurt in their barrel roll in SS7, but are unlikely to return to action on Saturday. And it wasn’t just Pieri who was down on his luck. Compatriot Tristan Charpentier posed a top-six threat but retired his Ford Fiesta after suffering three damaged tyres whilst only carrying two spare wheels in the afternoon.

Diego Dominguez replaced Pieri at the top of the category after battling with fellow South American runner Bruno Bulacia for the coveted top spot. With two stage wins recorded today, the Paraguayan sits 6.8sec clear of Bulacia, the duo swapping places late in the day after the Bolivian dropped 14.5sec in SS9.

Mattéo Chatillon rounded out the early podium, the French star winning two stages today as he pushed his Clio to the limit. He sits 4.7sec clear of SS2 winner Jan Ćerny going into Saturday’s loop of stages, while Ghjuvanni Rossi and Croatian runner Slaven Sekuljica fill out the remainder of the top six.

Friday morning, Katsuta takes the lead

Takamoto Katsuta is leading the Rally de Portugal standings after the first round of Friday morning special stages. The japanese Toyota driver, who won the sunday stage in Croatia, has been favored by a advantageous starting position and is proving to be faster and more mature. In second place is Thierry Neuville in a Hyundai, 2.9 seconds behind, followed by Kalle Rovanpera in a Toyota at 3.3 seconds and Ott Tanak in a Hyundai at 4.1 seconds. Sebastien Ogier is fifth with the third Toyota, 7.5 seconds behind, and he encountered intercom issues on special stage number 5 that slowed him down. Dani Sordo is sixth in the other Hyundai and compalins about hybrid system problems, Adrien Fourmaux is eighth in the first of the Ford Puma cars, followed by Elfyn Evans, who seems to be struggling to find the right feeling with the Toyota.

Oliver Solberg, driving a Skoda, leads the WRC2 standings. During special stage 4, there was an incident involving Pepe Lopez, who was competing in his first race with the Ford Fiesta. The crash caused delays in the start of special stage number 5. Rossel in a Citroen is in second place, and Greensmith is third.

  • Takamoto Katsuta: “It’s good to finish the run, for everybody it’s going to be really tough, but we have to keep pushing so we’ll see. Missing a bit of confidence so I could push more but I was making a bit of a mess too much so don’t want to change much.”
  • Thierry Neuville: “We were excepting more grip, but still I did a good run.”
  • Dani Sordo: “The hybrid system didn’t come up before the stage so I did the whole stage without a hybrid. The rear tyre was damaged so I replaced it.”
  • Kalle Rovanpera: “I can tell you one thing, black car and this heat equals sweat!”
  • Sebastien Ogier: “No idea, intercom cut out somewhere in the stage. We need to change tyres.”
  • Gregoire Munster: “This one was very difficult, I was hesitating a lot. Less good than the previous one. The guys in front will go faster but let’s just try and improve and see the times.”
  • Adrien Fourmaux: “I’m happy with the loop. We known many things happen on Friday afternoon.”

In the afternoon, the same stages from the morning will be repeated, and it’s likely that with the road already cleaned, the starting position will be less influential compared to the first pass.

Thursday Super Special Stage: Neuville fastest

Thierry Neuville on SS1

In the sign of Thierry Neuville, the Rally Portugal opens. Thousands of fans welcomed the WRC protagonists in Figueira da Foz and witnessed the Belgian driver’s first performance with his Hyundai. The WRC standings leader covered the 2.94 km Super Special Stage faster than anyone else, beating Sebastien Ogier by 0.6 seconds. Ogier, always in good form with his Toyota, is determined to replicate his success from three weeks ago in Croatia. Ott Tanak secured the third position on Hyundai, finishing with the same time as Takamoto Katsuta in the Toyota, just ahead of Kalle Rovanpera in another Yaris. Sixth place went to Fourmaux’s Ford, followed by Dani Sordo in the Hyundai and Evans in the Toyota.

Yoann Rossel fastest in WRC2

In WRC2, a Citroen leads the way once again, this time driven by frenchman Rossel. Compatriot Loubet holds the second position in a Skoda, while Kris Meeke takes third place on a Hyundai. These three brands will battle it out in the coming days on the Portuguese special stages. Eight special stages await the crews in Friday’s first leg, promising a challenging competition.

Drivers quotes from SS1:

  • Thierry Neuville: “Lots of spectators around and I hope they saw something.”
  • Elfyn Evans: “Long day tomorrow”
  • Ott Tanak: “It is important to get into the rhythm, start to feel better and have more flow.”
  • Sebastien Ogier: “I tried to be careful on the tyres.”
  • Kalle Ronvapera: “We love to drive for the fans but we need to save the tyres for tomorrow.”
  • Takamoto Katsuta: “It was a big surprise how slippery it was but lots of fun.”