Last weekend’s Rally Portugal, the fourth round of the 2021 World Rally Championship, proved to be a tough one for the teams.
A total of 76 competitors left the start outside of the city of Porto on Friday morning to face the eight special stages of the day. By Saturday morning that number was down to 57 and on Sunday it was just 48 cars facing the final five stages.
Day 1, Friday, looked as though it was going to be a clean sweep for the Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT as Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja, Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe and Dani Sordo/ Borja Rozada swept the top three positions on the first three stages. Tanak and team mate Sordo ended the first day having won three stages apiece.
It was a difficult start for the Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT with current champions Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia starting first and having to sweep the roads, costing considerable time, it was the seventh stage before the Frenchman took his first stage win.
Team mates Kalle Rovanpera/ Jonne Halttunen took victory on stage 4 for the team, as Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin struggled to find pace and the right combination of the new Pirelli gravel tyres but their afternoon times improved.
The introduction of Chris Paterson in the hot seat next to Gus Greensmith certainly is paying dividends, as the M-Sport Ford Fiesta team was third fastest on two of the day’s stages. Adrien Fourmaux/ Renaud Jamoul in the second M-Sport Fiesta also showed impressive form which bodes well for a team that has battled for results since the days of Ogier.
The day was to end badly for Neuville as he rolled his i20 onto its side, following a pace note misjudgment, resulting in a severely damaged right rear suspension which forced his retirement. Tanak led the field at the end of day 1 by just six seconds from Evans and nine seconds over Sordo in third.
Saturday morning started well for the overnight leaders with Tanak, Evans and Sordo fighting over the top three positions with the Estonian winning four of the seven stages and holding a 22.4 second lead.
It all came to an end 3.5 km from the finish of SS14 though when he suffered right rear suspension damage and was forced to retire, a tough day for Hyundai as Neuville, who had rejoined the rally retired after SS11 as the car required further work to be competitive. Evans took the lead and finished the second day 10.7 seconds ahead of Sordo and 1.04:2 ahead of team mate Ogier.
The final day and both Neuville and Tanak were back in the field with the aim of grabbing some points on the Power Stage. Sordo was looking to close the gap and take victory.
But it was to be Evans who stamped his authority on the event, winning three of the remaining five special stages to take the honours on the 2021 Rally Portugal by 28.3 seconds from second placed Sordo, who headed Ogier in third by 55.3 seconds, a fine effort from the Spanish crew who were on their first outing.
- E.Evans/S.Martin Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Yaris
- D.Sordo/B.Rozada Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT i20
- S. Ogier/J.Ingrassia Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Yaris
- T.Katsuta/D.Barritt Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Yaris
- G.Greensmith/C.Patterson M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta
- A.Fourmaux/R.Jamoul M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta
FIA World Rally Championship Drivers (after round 4 of 12)
- S.Ogier 79
- E.Evans 77
- T.Neuville 57
- O.Tanak 45
- K.Rovanpera 41
- T.Katsuta 36
FIA World Rally Championship Manufacturers (after round 4 of 12)
- Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT 183
- Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT 146
- M-Sport Ford WRT 64