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Rovanpera, Ogier split by a second, Evans suffers pacenote issue

Rovanpera, Ogier split by a second, Evans suffers pacenote issue

Reigning world champion Rovanpera snatched the rally lead on stage six, but the margin never grew larger than a second as the part-time driver battled with a GR Yaris that wasn’t too his liking.

The Finn, who ended Friday morning in third, held onto the lead despite a late attack from Ogier, who shot from fourth to second on the day’s final stage.     

The battle at the front proved incredibly tight with 5.4s covering the top four. Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta ended the day in third [+4.7s] after leading at the midday tyre fitting zone and sitting second until the final stage. Hyundai’s Ott Tanak, who was fighting his i20N all day, ran as high as third before dropping to fourth.   

Hyundai’s Dani Sordo claimed three stage wins on his return to the WRC since to sit fifth [+17.9s], 0.2s ahead of team-mate and a championship leader Thierry Neuville. Faced with the disadvantage of being first on the road, overnight leader Neuville limited the damage be ending the morning in a fine second, before dropping to sixth [+18.1s] after the afternoon loop.

M-Sport’s Adrien Fourmaux drove smartly to remain in seventh [+31.8s], ahead of Evans [+1m43.2s] who lost time to a puncture on stage seven, while his co-driver Scott Martin was without his pacenote book. Gregoire Munster [2m27.3s] completed the Rally1 field after a trouble-free run.

The top 10 was rounded out by WRC2 class leader Oliver Solberg, who edged Yohan Rossel by 7.3s.        

Katsuta’s morning lead going into the afternoon was short-lived. The Japanese lost the advantage by the smallest of margins after the afternoon’s first test [Stage 6, Lousa, 12.28km]. 

The second pass of Lousa presented a much drier and abrasive surface providing much more of a challenge.

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

It was Ogier who set the pace after benefitting from some setup changes made at the midday tyre fitting zone. The five-time Portugal winner managed to set a time 1.1s faster than team-mate Rovanpera with Sordo, third, 2.2s in arrears. The effort was enough to push Ogier from fifth to third overall.

“The tyre is helping but we made some little changes,” said Ogier, who gambled on taking only one spare wheel. “I feel a bit better now but we’ve had better days. No risk, no fun.”

The stage provided even better news for Rovanpera as he leapt into the rally lead by 0.1s from Katsuta, who dropped 4.5s.

Rovanpera revealed he was still fighting…

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