Toyota driver Ott Tänak has taken a commanding win at 2019 Rally Portugal last Sunday ahead of Thierry Neuville and Sebastien Ogier. After the seventh appointment of the WRC Calendar, the Estonian driver is just two points behind the French leader and defending champion from Citröen. Third in the standings and 10 points below is the Belgian driver from Hyundai.
Tänak takes a step forward
This victory means Tänak is the only WRC driver to have scored three wins this season, one more than his title rivals Neuville and Ogier. Statistics aside, the leader of the Tommi Mäkinen team has demonstrated to be a firm contender for the crown. He has become the man to beat at every race.
The driver from Kärla has shown great performance consistency and skill. Tänak took the lead on Friday’s third stage following Dani Dorado’ breakdown and didn’t let it go till the checkered flag. From that moment on, the Estonian imposed a very strong pace, outperforming all of his pursuers. All in all a great exhibition, with the 21-year-old dominating throughout the weekend.
Always in his shadow, Neuville didn’t exactly make it easy for the Tänak. The Belgian from Hyundai, who finished second, managed some very positive sensations after his Chile accident.
Ogier also has enough reasons to be satisfied with his performance at 2019 Rally Portugal. He might not have won but he has managed to keep his lead of the standings and that is no small achievement.
Sunday: One day and three possible winners
Tänak started the Sunday stage feeling the pressure from both his closest pursuers; teammate Kris Meeke and Neuville. The Irish driver was a mere 4,3 seconds behind him and Neuville a little bit further at 9,2 seconds.
Such small distances meant any error could be fatal but the main man of the Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT didn’t make a single mistake despite the mounting tension.
When the moment of truth arrived, he didn’t hesitate, flying as he did through the dusty Portuguese specials. In the end, Tänak arrived at the Power Stage a whole 16.6 seconds ahead of Neuville. The Belgian driver had taken second place from the Briton after being fastest on the previous special.
Meeke makes a mistake
Very much to Tänak’s relief, Meeke went back to his old reckless ways and ended up driving his Yaris off track in the last timed stage, losing his team a 1-2 which they had by now taken for granted.
Grateful to his rival for the sudden advantage, Ogier was the fastest in the Power Stage and was awarded the ensuing five extra points. The six-time champion keeps his place at the top of the standings for another Sunday.
A bad day for Hyundai
The great loser as far as teams go was Hyundai. They brought a fearsome line-up to Portugal with Neuville, Dani Sordo and Loeb, who came in as Mikkelsen replacement, but only the driver from Saint Vith managed to shine on the day.
The Spanish driver had some issues with the gas pump of his i20 Coupe on Friday, when he was leading the race and had to bid farewell to any chance of victory.
There, on that same stretch of the race, bad luck struck again for the team from Alzenau. The nine-time world champion’s vehicle also suffered a fault which made him lose fifteen minutes and any possibility of a podium position.
Images ‘2019 Rally Portugal’:Toyota