The reigning world champion delivered one of his finest drives to beat Hyundai’s Dani Sordo by 54.7s and seal maximum points by winning the Power Stage.
The victory was made even more impressive given he was second in the road order ahead of Friday’s dusty gravel stages.
Rovanpera had endured a quiet start to his title defence heading into Portugal having scored only one podium from the previous four rounds, while his last victory arrived in October last year when he clinched the world championship at Rally New Zealand.
The Finn has however remained in the thick of the title fight finishing fourth in the previous rounds in Sweden, Mexico and Croatia, where road position and misfortune have hampered his charge.
Asked if it was a relief to be back on the top step of the podium, he said: “Yeah it has been a bit too long coming but I knew when we get a clean weekend and a good drive we would be back in the game. It was nice to have it here and be back.
“Everything was like it should be with the car so we were a back on the game and pushing on. You always miss the feeling when you are not there and it is nice to be back.”
Kalle Rovanperä, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images
When interviewed at the end of the final stage, Rovanpera was quick to praise co-driver Jonne Halttunen, his Toyota team and a close friend for helping him through a difficult few months.
“It has been too long coming, but finally we are back,” he said.
“I have to say a big thank you to Jonne and the team. They have been pushing all the time and going forward. I also have to give a good thank you to my very good friend Arttu. I have been having a hard time since the end of last year personally, and he has been pushing me to come back.”
Despite having the rally under control, Rovanpera was still hungry to score maximum points from the Power Stage, which he achieved by beating M-Sport’s Ott Tanak by 0.7s. As a result he will now head to Sardinia with a 17-point lead in the championship standings.
“I wanted to score as many points as possible because I knew we were going to have to open the road in Sardinia if we finished like this [with a win],” he added. “I pushed for the Power Stage, it wasn’t perfect but it was enough.”
Click Here to Read the Full Original Article at Motorsport.com – RALLY – Stories…