He won on the snow, he won on the asphalt and today he also won on the dirt. Three consecutive victories, on three different funds, which certify only one thing: Kalle Rovanpera is ready to hunt down what would be his first WRC world title of his career.
The Finnish driver, masterfully navigated by Jonne Halttunen, won the Rally of Portugal taking home the third consecutive success of the season, the fifth of his career. This success is perhaps the most important of the season because it arrived despite the fact that he was forced to open all the special stages of the first stage as required by the sporting regulations as he is the leader of the World Championship.
Test after test, Rovanpera was very good at taking advantage of all the favorable moments on Friday, but also at creating them with a great pace that led him to the last day by playing for the victory with his teammate Elfyn Evans.
The Welshman led the race until Saturday afternoon, when Rovanpera made good use of his pace and the rain to mock him and climb to the top of the overall standings of the event. Today, however, Kalle has sublimated his supremacy by controlling Evans and once again stretching over Evans. The final gap between the two was 15 “2.
Rovanpera, thanks also to Thierry Neuville’s fifth place finish, brought his advantage to 46 points over the Belgian of Hyundai Motorsport, the first rival in the 2022 World Drivers’ classification. A real breakaway. The World Championship is still long, but the supremacy that Toyota is showing already seems to have taken a mortgage on this season. If Hyundai doesn’t react and make the i20 N Rally1 at least more reliable, the GR Yaris will have an easy time until the end of the season.
The fight for third place was very nice, which ended in the Power Stage with Dani Sordo who managed to snatch a podium that would have been more than deserved from Takamoto Katsuta’s hands. Having reached the last test in front of 2 “2, Katsuta struggled a lot in the 11 km Fafe 2, just like he had already done in the first lap.
Sordo, on the other hand, took the second time (taking home even 4 extra points) and overtook Katsuta on a tightrope, taking home the first podium of his career in the first race made in the hybrid era of the WRC. Fifth and sixth final place for Thierry Neuville and Ott Tanak.
The Belgian driver had the opportunity to fight for victory until Friday afternoon, when in the transfer between PS7 and PS8 he lost a wheel due to a failure on his i20 and ended up completing the day without traction. front (only the rear one worked). At that point he found himself cut off for the win and managed to climb up to fifth place, limiting the damage.
Ott Tanak faced another tricky weekend with beaded tires and a transmission failure on his i20 N Rally1 which further limited him. The sixth place finish gives a good idea of the weekend he went through, but it is yet another alarm bell at Hyundai: the i20s seem less performing than the Toyota ones and are certainly less reliable. So the title fight will soon be over.
A very complex weekend also for M-Sport, which saw 3 of the 5 Ford Puma Rally1 deployed in Portugal reach the finish line. Seventh place for Pierre-Louis Loubet, who did well on Friday, but then disappointed and not a little in the following days. Eighth Craig Breen, held back by several problems, including one with the braking system on Sunday, while Adrien Fourmaux finished ninth.
Gus Greensmith and Sébastien Loeb retired during the race. Both for two mistakes. A pity, because they were the most convincing drivers in terms of pace of the M-Sport team. Loeb, in particular, was the author of an unusual mistake for a champion like him: he ripped a suspension and ended up against a concrete block 20 meters from the start of one of the tests on Friday.
Sébastien Ogier also retired: the Toyota driver ran out of spare tires on the first day. In the second, however, he made a mistake and ended up in a ditch, getting stuck for several minutes. So his presence was important for Toyota as he acted as a tester, testing some setups.
As for the WRC2, however, the epilogue that saw an incredulous Yohan Rossel win was sensational. The Citroen driver won thanks to the incredible retirement of Teemu Suninen, who arrived after a few corners of the Power Stage due to a mistake made by the driver himself. On the first day Andreas Mikkelsen retired due to a breakdown on his Skoda Fabia Rally2 Evo.
The race from the point of view of Pirelli
“At each race, as is normal and as happens to the drivers, we learn new things – commented Terenzio Testoni, Pirelli Rally Activity Manager -. What we take home overall from Portugal is the confirmation, also confirmed by the technical comments of the teams, that the new dirt tires can face the most extreme and unexpected conditions such as those that occurred on the longest and most challenging race day, that of Friday, in which the accidents were inevitably numerous and in line with what I could expect with reduced roads in that state “.
“I’m surprised someone might have been surprised, but this too is part of the Rally at the end. Although in different conditions, the Scorpions will have undergone a second severe scrutiny on the abrasive dirt roads of Sardinia in two weeks, where we expect higher temperatures and weather. more stable”.
Rally of Portugal 2022 – Final classification
|Pos.||Pilot / navigator||Car||Time / posting|
|1||Rovanpera / Halttunen||Toyota GR Yaris Rally1||3h44’19 “2|
|2||Evans / Martin||Toyota GR Yaris Rally1||+15 “2|
|3||Sordo / Carrera||Hyundai i20 N Rally1||+ 2’17 “3|
|4||Katsuta / Johnston||Toyota GR Yaris Rally1||+ 2’19 “4|
|5||Neuville / Wydaeghe||Hyundai i20 N Rally1||+ 2’37 “8|
|6||Tanak / Jarveoja||Hyundai i20 N Rally1||+ 4’45 “7|
|7||Loubet / Landais||Ford Puma Rally1||+ 5’52 “1|
|8||Breen / Nagle||Ford Puma Rally1||+ 7’03 “4|
|9||Fourmaux / Coria||Ford Puma Rally1||+ 8’09 “6|
|10||Rossel / Sarreaud||Citroen C3 Rally2||+ 13’48 “9|