Rally win hands Neuville title lead
Thierry Neuville has moved into the lead of the World Rally Championship after claiming victory in Rally Portugal.
The Hyundai driver held a nearly 40 second advantage over Elfyn Evans heading into the final day, maintaining that gap throughout to take his second win of the season.
Evans finished second with M-Sport Ford team-mate Teemu Suninen in third place to record his maiden WRC podium.
Sebastien Ogier was an early retirement from the rally, crashing out on Friday’s opening stage.
Leading the championship at the time, Ogier clipped a bank which forced his car off the road and into a wooded area.
Though neither Ogier nor co-driver Julien Ingrassia were injured, the duo went no further than the Viana do Castelo stage.
Kris Meeke and Hayden Paddon were also retirements, with both drivers being air-lifted to hospital for precautionary checks after separate crashes.
The rally’s opening morning was led by Hyundai’s Dani Sordo, though only after four different leaders in as many stages opened the event proper.
Ott Tanak headed proceedings following a super special stage on Thursday night, but his Toyota ingested a rock which forced him out with high oil pressure.
Jari-Matti Latvala was also a casualty on Friday, stopping his Toyota Yaris with damaged suspension.
Towards the end of the day the spate of retirements saw Neuville move into the head of the rally, an advantage he then held throughout.
Early leader Sordo was fourth in the final results, initially fifth behind Esapekka Lappi in the sole Toyota to reach the finish but a penalty for clipping a bale on Friday’s Stage 9 demoted him to fifth.
In championship terms, Neuville scored 29 points over the event courtesy of winning the rally and finishing second fastest on the power stage.
The Belgian holds a 19 point advantage over Ogier, who failed to score a point courtesy of his early retirement.
The 2018 WRC now heads to Rally Italy on June 7-10 for the seventh round of its 13 event season.
Rally de Portugal: Results (Top 10)
|1||5||Thierry Neuville||BEL||Hyundai||i20 WRC||3:49:46.6|
|2||2||Elfyn Evans||GBR||M-Sport Ford||Fiesta WRC||+40.0|
|3||3||Teemu Suninen||FIN||M-Sport Ford||Fiesta WRC||+47.3|
|4||16||Dani Sordo||ESP||Hyundai||i20 WRC||+1:00.9|
|5||9||Esapekka Lappi||FIN||Toyota Gazoo||Yaris WRC||+1:04.7|
|6||12||Mads Ostberg||NOR||Citroen||C3 WRC||+3:33.5|
|7||11||Craig Breen||IRL||Citroen||C3 WRC||+5:23.0|
|8||31||Pontus Tidemand||SWE||Skoda||Fabia R5||WRC2||+14:10.8|
|9||37||Lukasz Pieniazek||POL||Printsport||Fabia R5||WRC2||+16:17.3|
|10||42||Stephane Lefebvre||FRA||Citroen||C3 R5||WRC2||+16:34.3|
Rally de Portugal: Power Stage (Bonus points)
|1||9||Esapekka Lappi||FIN||Toyota Gazoo||Yaris WRC||6:33.2||5|
|2||5||Thierry Neuville||BEL||Hyundai||i20 WRC||+1.9||4|
|3||16||Dani Sordo||ESP||Hyundai||i20 WRC||+2.1||3|
|4||3||Teemu Suninen||FIN||M-Sport Ford||Fiesta WRC||+3.2||2|
|5||2||Elfyn Evans||GBR||M-Sport Ford||Fiesta WRC||+4.3||1|
|2||M-Sport Ford WRT||162|
|3||Toyota Gazoo Racing||140|