The World Rally Championship has kicked off its gravel season in Europe with a vibrant Rally de Portugal in which Toyota has led the singing voice. The Japanese firm carried the weight of the event, first with Elfyn Evans and then with the man in fashion in the WRC. The suomi Kalle Rovanperä has conquered the victory in the Portuguese stages to achieve the perfect triplet in 2022. The Finn won with the Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 on the snow in Sweden, on the tarmac in Croatia and on the dirt in Portugal, all back to back.
Thanks to these three wins, accompanied by fourth place in the ‘Monte’ and three wins out of a possible four in the Power Stage, Kalle Rovanperä has 106 points after four rallies and has a 46-point lead over Thierry Neuville. The Belgian driver had to settle for fifth place in the Rally de Portugal after having problems in his Hyundai i20 N Rally1 and remains the main pursuer of a Rovanperä that seems uncontrollable. For his part, Takamoto Katsuta occupies the third position based on finishing in the points the four rallies played. Of course, the Japanese has 38 units.
Worrying begins to be the drought of an Ott Tänak who barely has a podium so far this season and a sad background of 37 points, one more than Elfyn Evans after the Welshman’s second place in the Portuguese stages. Craig Breen occupies the sixth position with 34 points, while Sébastien Loeb is seventh after not being able to replicate his victory at the Monte Carlo Rally at the Portuguese event. In fact, Loeb had a Rally de Portugal to forget with a double retirement that did not allow him to shine as expected.
Yes, Dani Sordo did it, tenth overall despite having contested only one rally. In fact, the Cantabrian is tied with Sébastien Ogier, since the Frenchman was unable to score points in Portugal. In the case of the Spaniard, his debut on the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 was masterful. With a pace perhaps lower than that of his rivals, the Spaniard was able to optimize -once again- his work and opportunities to achieve a podium. Sordo already has 16 consecutive seasons -since 2006- achieving at least one podium in the WRC.
Toyota Gazoo Racing’s recital in the Portuguese sections is well noted in the constructors’ classification. The Japanese firm adds 175 points and increases its advantage over Hyundai to 59 units. A difference that could well have been greater if Takamoto Katsuta had beaten Dani Sordo in the fight between the two for third place in the rally. For its part, M-Sport has 94 points from the first four rallies, while Toyota’s ‘B’ team, with Katsuta as the only member, has 42.
Photos: Red Bull Content Pool