|As expected, Hyundai WRT’s Thierry Neuville has won the WRC Rally Portugal after Sunday’s short leg. Victory at the gruelling four-day dirt road encounter promoted Neuville to the top of the Drivers’ Standings as the series approaches its midpoint.|
After starting 10 points behind Reigning WRC Champion Sébastien Ogier prior to the Rally Portugal, the Hyundai lead driver came away with a 19-point advantage. Behind Neuville were Elfyn Evans in a Fiesta WRC and Teemu Suninen in another Fiesta WRC. Neuville, who won the rally by more than 40 seconds from the second place runner, took the final leg’s Power Stage win to add an extra 3 points to his championship cause. It all started on Friday when the lead changed six times and Neuville was able to press his advantage with a solid performance on the crucial second leg. On the final leg, he eased through Sunday’s finale to secure his second win of the year. “It was a clever approach all weekend. I had a fantastic car which was working well and I felt comfortable. We can be proud of what we achieved here,” said Neuville.
Ogier ended the rally without a point following a disaster in the first leg, as did the otehr contender Ott Tanak.
Second for Evans eased the pressure after a disappointing season, while third-place runner Suninen helped erase the frustration of Ogier’s blank weekend. It was Suninen’s first podium in the WRC as he finished 7.3sec behind his team mate. Suninen held off Esapekka Lappi and the second Hyundai of Dani Sordo in an intense fight for the final podium place. Sordo was third prior to the final leg but a penalty meant that he would have to work hard for a podium spot. He tried his level best but dropped down the order and eventually ended up behind Lappi by less than 5 secs.
Round seven promises a high-summer shootout on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia. The all-gravel Rally Italia Sardegna is based in Alghero on 8 – 10 June.
2018 WRC Rally Portugal classification
1. T Neuville / N Gilsoul BEL Hyundai i20 3hr 49min 46.6sec
2. E Evans / D Barritt GBR Ford Fiesta + 40.0sec
3. T Suninen / M Markkula FIN Ford Fiesta + 47.3sec
4. E Lappi / J Ferm FIN Toyota Yaris + 54.7sec
5. D Sordo / C del Barrio ESP Hyundai i20 + 1min 00.9sec
1. T Neuville 119pts
2. S Ogier 100pts
3. O Tänak 72pts