Rovanpera claimed a ninth career WRC victory in Portugal and his first of the season after dominating the rough gravel rally to defeat Hyundai’s Sordo by 54.7s.
The triumph was the reigning world champion’s first win since sealing the 2022 title at Rally New Zealand last October.
After converting a difficult road position into 10.8s lead at the end of Friday, Rovanpera won five of seven stages on Saturday, including a stunning effort on stage nine where he was 12.8s faster than anyone else.
Sordo admitted that he felt helpless at times during the crucial phase of the rally.
“You feel like you’re driving an R5 car, in a different category,” said Sordo when asked for this thoughts upon seeing the time.
“We know he drives very well and has a big talent. He already did it last year.
“We know he can always go a little bit more and he can go ‘ciao bang’ [and there is the time].”
Sordo’s Hyundai team-mate Esapekka Lappi, who finished third overall, added: “When I finished the stage it left like, as I said in the interview on the stage, horrible with no grip.
“The time was pretty okay at that moment – and then he came and I said to my co-driver it felt horrible and that was the truth.
Podium: Winner Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1, second place Dani Sordo, Candido Carrera, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1, third place Esapekka Lappi, Janne Ferm, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1
Photo by: Austral / Hyundai Motorsport
“We could see that the gap was huge. But it’s always these type of things happen.
“He is just beating us one second per kilometre just shows how good he is and we just cannot do it the same way.”
Reflecting on his best result to date driving a Rally1 car, Sordo was pleased with the podium which he dedicated to his late team-mate Craig Breen.
“The feeling is very well,” he added. “Saturday morning, I was losing a little bit of time and I make a small mistake at a hairpin and lose time there. But, in the afternoon, we pushed more and it was much better. I can be happy for the weekend.
“I want to say thanks to Craig [Breen] because he was with me for the whole rally and pushing me to the limits.”
Sordo is set to pilot Hyundai’s third i20 N at the next round of the championship in Sardinia from 1-4 June. The 40-year-old’s programme after that event is yet to be determined while Hyundai assesses its options to fill the…