With a third consecutive victory after Sweden & Croatia, Kalle Rovanperä is unstoppable. The Finn has conquered the Rally de Portugal 2022 after defeating his Toyota teammate Elfyn Evans in yet another vibrant duel.
With a particular knack for hair rising wins, Rovanpera has imposed himself by just 15,2 seconds after both aspirants made it to Sunday with very similar chances to win. Spain’s Dani Sordo (Hyundai), passed Takamoto Katsuta (Toyota) on the final stage to claim third place by just 2,1 seconds, leaving the Japanese driver without a podium.
Thanks to this authoritative win, Rovanperä has extended his lead at the top of the standings to 106 points, 48 over Thierry Neuville (Hyundai), second. Numbers aside, the 21-year-old has consolidated his stake as the main candidate for the 2022 crown. So much so that, so far, he has no clear challenger.
#WRC 🇵🇹 Here we go with the provisional classification and points after @rallydeportugal. @DaniSordo finishing third overall, @thierryneuville 5th and @OttTanak 6th.#HMSGOfficial #RallydePortugal pic.twitter.com/WQqdXiAQ4M
— hmsgofficial (@HMSGOfficial) May 22, 2022
Those originally considered favourites to win Rally de Portugal 2022, on the other hand, have not lived up to the expectations. Before the start of the race, all eyes were on the returned Sébastien Loeb (M-Sport) and Sébastien Ogier (Toyota). Everyone was hoping for a repeat of the battle between the two most successful racers in WRC history. But it was not to be. Their fates, seemingly intertwined in good and evil, saw them both getting knocked out of the race on Friday.
As far as teams go, Hyundai has disappointed fans once again. Four races into the first season of the hybrid era and the team from Alzenau still has not managed to score a single victory. The South Koreans are getting increasingly impatient and worried.
A thrilling Sunday´s battle
Rovanperä started the final day, and last five specials, with a 5,7 lead over Evans. Immediately, the Scandinavian driver stretched his lead to nine seconds (SS20) ahead of the final battle (SS21). The young Finn, displaying a perfect mixture of quality and temperance, imposed his law at the Power Stage.
He managed to win that last stretch with 6,1 seconds to spare in relation to Evans, sixth. Meanwhile, Sordo finished that section in second place after losing two seconds to the victor and going on to claim his first podium of the hybrid era.
Saturday: Epic duel Evans – Rovanperä
Saturday started with Evans heading Rally Portugal and Rovanperä 13.6 seconds behind. The Briton, who had kept a great pace during the previous day, inherited the lead from Sébstien Loeb (M-Sport) in SS5 after this suffered an accident and subsequently retired.
Aware that he could not let his Welsh teammate escape, the Finn then went on the offensive, taking three super specials (SS11, SS13 and SS14) out of seven. His talent was further aided by the weather, as a heavy downpour on the 15th special, the penultimate on Saturday, contained Evans, who ended up losing 13.4 seconds against Rovanperä.
The British had started that section with a 9.9-point advantage and ended it in second place by 4 seconds. The young Scandinavian then further extended his lead to 5.7 seconds on Saturday’s final assault.
Friday: Loeb retires and Evans inherits the lead
Following Loeb’s retirement on SS5, Evans took back the top spot of the Rally de Portugal by 2.1sec. Rovanperä was then waiting for his time in fourth place, just 9.9 seconds behind the Briton. In the next section, Ogier also retired on SS7 following a double puncture, another contender opening the way for the young champion, who jumped to second position and went to bed with a 13.6-second advantage over Evans.
Images of Rally de Portugal 2022: