Ott Tanak secured his third victory of 2019 by conquering Rally Portugal, surviving a broken damper on Saturday to close further on championship leader Sebastian Ogier.
Tanak moved into the lead on SS3 during the first loop on Friday morning, as early leader Dani Sordo was forced to crawl through the stage when his Hyundai i20 WRC developed a fuel pressure problem.
A similar issue had slowed Sordo’s Hyundai stable-mate Sebastien Loeb, the pair losing over 20 minutes each and tumbling down the order as a result.
Tanak then led what was initially a Toyota 1-2-3, with Jari-Matti Latvala ahead of Kris Meeke until mid-way through Saturday. Latvala then suffered yet more misfortune as he suffered a damper failure on his Yaris WRC, losing nearly a minute on SS12 before retiring to try and preserve the car for Sunday.
The former meanwhile was suffering the same fate, but thankfully for the Estonian to a lesser extent than his unfortunate team-mate. This meant that was able to manage the time-loss to Meeke and Thierry Neuville’s Hyundai and held the lead heading into the final day.
He then controlled the pace throughout the Sunday tests, staying clear of a dramatic rally-ending power-stage that saw Meeke retire from third place.
The Irishman was enjoying his best performance of the season so far, but lost around 17 seconds with a spin on the penultimate stage, but managed to hold third heading to the Fafe power-stage. He then clipped a tree stump with his front right wheel and broke his steering, forcing him to retire on the spot.
This caused a further red flag, following the first caused by Gus Greensmith who had crashed just after landing the infamous Fafe jump.
Tanak managed the third fastest time in the power-stage to bank a further three points to go with his maximum score from victory, lifting off towards the end of the stage to make sure Ogier took the stage win.
This made sure that the world champion would keep the championship lead and as a result will sweep the road for in Sardinia, Tanak now just two points behind.
Neuville took second 15.9 seconds behind Tanak, as well as second in the power-stage, while Ogier inherited third following Meeke’s retirement.
Teemu Sunninen and Elfyn Evans rounded out the top five respectively in their M-Sport Ford Fiesta’s, the pair both suffering mechanical faults early in the rally but had shown strong pace to move back into the top five with bigger issues for other drivers.
Kalle Rovenpera secured the WRC2 victory and his best overall WRC result in the process in a superb sixth, while Latvala managed to recover to seventh, moving ahead of Jan Kopecky on the final stage after being given a notional time for being caught out by the red flag.
The top 10 was rounded out by a pair of WRC2 runners, Pierre Loubet leading Emil Bergkvist for ninth and 10th places respectively.