Portugal WRC: Tanak holds overnight lead after dramatic Friday

Hyundai’s Ott Tanak holds the overnight lead Portugal as the fourth round of the 2021 World Rally Championship delivered a dramatic return to gravel rallying.

Listen to this article

Tanak’s team-mate, early leader Dani Sordo, continued his strong run after the opening loop service halt to tease out his lead from 6.7 seconds before the break to 8.2s after the next three stages.

The Spaniard, driving Hyundai Motorsport’s third entry for the first time since Monte Carlo in January, kept ahead of his full-time team-mates Tanak and Thierry Neuville as they disputed second place.

Neuville had been driving out of his skin all day despite an unfavourable road position, starting second behind the Toyota of points leader Sebastien Ogier, which requires the early runners to sweep excess gravel off the road surface to the benefit of cars further down the order.

Read Also:

The Belgian sat in third overall through the morning and then passed Tanak for second place, but on the seventh stage disaster struck both leading contenders.

Neuville and co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe had made an error in their pacenotes on the pre-event recce and came into a left-hand bend rather too ambitiously.

Their Hyundai ran wide and hit a tree stump in the verge, tearing the right rear corner off their car and putting them out of the running for the day.

Soon afterwards, Sordo was fighting a losing battle for grip as his tyres began to deteriorate after a long day’s running and eventually he spun.

This misdemeanour was then compounded by a recurrence of the low speed engine stalling that has troubled the team in the course of the past 12 months, resulting in Sordo dropping from first to third overall, with Tanak assuming the lead 2.7s ahead of Toyota’s Elfyn Evans.

Dani Sordo, Borja Rozada, Hyundai Motorsport Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

Dani Sordo, Borja Rozada, Hyundai Motorsport Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

The Welshman had opted for a cautious approach to the first day and it clearly paid dividends, keeping him firmly in contention amid the drama.

On the climactic penultimate stage, Evans was badly baulked by Neuville, who was attempting to drag his three-wheeled Hyundai to the finish line.

The incident cost Evans in excess of 25 seconds, causing the stewards to give him a notional time to minimise the damage.

Points leader Ogier meanwhile treated the huge crowds at the event to a masterclass of driving skill as he sought to minimise the impact of his road position.

The seven-time champion’s imperative was to get ahead of the WRC backmarkers before the road order is reversed on Saturday morning, and having been pegged back to set only the seventh or eighth fastest time through the opening five stages, Ogier flew through the afternoon.

Setting fifth fastest time on the sixth stage of the day, he then combined a Herculean drive on stage seven with the ill fortune of Sordo, Neuville and Evans take an improbable stage win and leap up to fifth on the leaderboard.

The day ended with a head-to-head superspecial stage at the Pista da Corsilha rallycross track in Porto, providing plenty of theatre for a healthy crowd, albeit some way short of its 35,000 peak due to Covid prevention measures.

Oliver Solberg, Aaron Johnston, Hyundai Motorsport N Hyundai i20 R5

Oliver Solberg, Aaron Johnston, Hyundai Motorsport N Hyundai i20 R5

Photo by: Jordi Rierola / Hyundai Motorsport

Adding to the festival occasion, local hero Armindo Araujo garnered a standing ovation for winning his head-to-head in WRC3, while Oliver Solberg replicated his former world champion father Petter’s standing-on-a-moving-car routine in WRC2.

When the big guns came out to close the action, M-Sport’s Gus Greensmith crowned a day that saw him set two second-fastest stage times by beating his highly fancied new team-mate Adrien Fourmaux.

Ogier beat his team-mate Rovanpera, then Takamoto Katsuta in the fourth Toyota beat Sordo in their head-to-head encounter.

The Spaniard’s difficult day had been added to by a tyre delaminating on the motorway en route to the superspecial stage, cleaning off the bodywork on his right rear corner.

The action continues six special stages on Saturday, and will close with another superspecial in Porto during the evening.

shares
comments

Related video

WRC's hybrid systems can't be used for performance advantage
Previous article

WRC's hybrid systems can't be used for performance advantage

Next article

Neuville blames Portugal WRC crash on "too optimistic" pace note

Neuville blames Portugal WRC crash on "too optimistic" pace note
Load comments
How Monte masters stole the show as WRC's hybrid era blasted off Prime

How Monte masters stole the show as WRC's hybrid era blasted off

The new Rally1 hybrid cars made their competition debuts in Monte Carlo, but it was two semi-retired drivers who took centre stage in a thrilling battle between two of the World Rally Championship's most successful names. Here's how Sebastien Loeb completed a remarkable return on his M-Sport debut by beating reigning champion Sebastien Ogier

WRC
15 h
The WRC heirs scrapping to assume Ogier's throne in 2022 Prime

The WRC heirs scrapping to assume Ogier's throne in 2022

Eight-time World Rally Championship king Sebastien Ogier has abdicated (well, gone part-time) in 2022, meaning for just the second time in the past decade we will have a different champion this year. We pick out the drivers gunning to take his place and take over the mantle as the WRC's new ruler

WRC
Jan 20, 2022
The WRC star that's earned the right to lead M-Sport's revival Prime

The WRC star that's earned the right to lead M-Sport's revival

Part-time opportunities with Citroen and Hyundai have offered brief glimpses of what Craig Breen can do in a World Rally Championship car. Now signed up by M-Sport to lead it into the WRC's new hybrid era, Breen has been given the chance he's pursued for so long and is determined to make the most of it

WRC
Jan 18, 2022
Why the WRC's 'modern Group B' era was rallying at its bonkers best Prime

Why the WRC's 'modern Group B' era was rallying at its bonkers best

The World Rally Championship has brought down the curtain on the aggressive, aero-laden generation of cars first introduced in 2017 that have been likened to the 1980s Group B icons. As the championship prepares to begin a new era of Rally1 hybrid cars, its stars explain just why the outgoing machines were so special

WRC
Dec 24, 2021
Ranking the top 10 WRC drivers of 2021 Prime

Ranking the top 10 WRC drivers of 2021

On the eve of a new hybrid era for the World Rally Championship, the 2021 season was a blockbuster fought out between Toyota's two top dogs, with a familiar figure eventually emerging on top after a final showdown at Monza. We pick out the 10 best performers from the top class and its supporting cast

WRC
Dec 21, 2021
Why Ogier's WRC swansong was a season to savour Prime

Why Ogier's WRC swansong was a season to savour

He’s shuffling into semi-rally-retirement, but Toyota star Sebastien Ogier was at the peak of his powers in the final season for the high downforce era-World Rally Championship cars. Despite Toyota's domination, there was still much to enjoy as the old master emerged atop a fierce title fight against teammate Elfyn Evans.

WRC
Dec 19, 2021
How WRC legend Ogier will be remembered by his peers Prime

How WRC legend Ogier will be remembered by his peers

After winning his eighth WRC title, Sebastien Ogier has drawn the curtain on his full-time rallying career. To understand Ogier's legacy, many of his former rivals, team-mates and colleagues have shared their thoughts on a vastly successful career

WRC
Nov 26, 2021
Ranking lost WRC legend Richard Burns' 10 best rallies Prime

Ranking lost WRC legend Richard Burns' 10 best rallies

Richard Burns was a determined driver who took on the best rally drivers in the world during a boom period in the early 2000s, and beat them. On the 20th anniversary of his crowning glory in winning the 2001 WRC title, and 16 years on from his death on the same date, we pick out his 10 greatest drives

WRC
Nov 25, 2021