Twenty-five years after their last win together on the event as a WRC round*, Toyota and Michelin claimed the top prize at this year’s Rally de Portugal thanks to Ott Tänak. Second and third were Thierry Neuville (Hyundai/Michelin) and Sébastien Ogier (Citroën/Michelin). With half of the 2019 FIA World Rally Championship completed, Ogier tops the Provisional Drivers’ standings, two and ten points clear of his Estonian and Belgian rivals respectively. The new Skoda Fabia R5 Evo/Michelin got its career of to a flying start with a one-two finish in WRC2 Pro thanks to Kalle Rovanperä and Jan Kopecky.
After Juha Kankkunen’s domination of the 1994 Rally de Portugal in a Michelin FB-equipped Toyota Celica Turbo 4WD, Ott Tänak followed in the Finn’s footsteps this weekend by taking an assertive victory on the same event in a Toyota Yaris WRC competing on Michelin LTX Force tyres to provide a further illustration of the French brand’s ‘long-lasting performance’ pledge.
As ground temperatures soared to as high as 45°C, the seventh round of the 2019 FIA WRC turned out to be a closely-fought affair and the provisional top-four – comprising Tänak, Meeke, Neuville and Ogier – was split by just 21 seconds going into the final day.
Tänak overcame the handicap of running second on the road on Day 1 to appear in front at close-of-play Friday, before going on to collect his third win of the campaign, and his second in a row after Chile.
Former Portugal victors Kris Meeke (Toyota/Michelin) and Thierry Neuville battled hard for second spot which fell into the Belgian’s lap when the Ulsterman span on the penultimate test and crashed out for good on the Power Stage.
Runner-up honours for Neuville saved Hyundai Motorsport’s otherwise hapless week which saw both Sébastien Loeb and Dani Sordo lose time on SS3, at which point the Spaniard was in the lead.
The brand new Michelin Latitude Cross-equipped Skoda Fabia R5 Evo marked its WRC debut with a one-two finish in WRC2 Pro in the hands of factory drivers Rovanperä and Kopecky. Frenchman Pierre-Louis Loubet (Skoda Fabia R5/Michelin) won the WRC2 class.
The 2019 FIA WRC’s next stop is Rally Italia Sardegna (June 14-16), one of the roughest rounds of the season.
* Toyota and Michelin won the Rally de Portugal in 1996 (Madeira) and 2002 (Auriol), but the event did not count towards the WRC those years.
2019 Rally de Portugal – final positions:
1, Tänak/Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC), 3h20m22.8s
2, Neuville/Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupé WRC), +15.9s
3, Ogier/Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC), +57.1s
4, Suninen/Salminen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC), +2m41.5s
5, Evans/Martin (Ford Fiesta RS WRC), +7m8.3s
6, Rovanperä/Halttunen (Skoda Fabia R5 Evo) (1
7, Kopecky/Dresler (Skoda Fabia R5 Evo), +11m41.9s
8, Latvala/Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC), +13m6.7s