Tänak takes second in opening Rally de Portugal test

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Ott Tänak and co-driver Martin Järveoja in action in Portgual. Source: Hyundai Motorsport

World Rally Championship star Ott Tänak came second in Thursday's opening test at the Vodaphone Rally de Portugal, just outside the northern city of Porto. The race is the fourth of the season.

Tänak currently lies in fourth place in the WRC drivers table, going into Rally Portugal.

While the Estonian was in the lead for some time, eventually Elfyn Evans (Toyota, U.K.) overtook him and posted a time of 3.05.9 to Tänak's 3.06.1

Two Toyota drivers, Finn Kalle Rovanperä (3.06.2) and Takamoto Katsuta of Japan (3.06.7) were next, followed by reigning world champion Sebastien Ogier, also in the Toyota Yaris, (3.06.8). Ogier is five-times winner in Portugal, a record he ties with legendary Finn Markku Alen.

Tänak's teammate Thierry Neuville came seventh (3.07.4).

The rally is set to be the longest of the season, at 337 km and over 20 speed tests, starting in the Coimbra district and ending in the Braga district.

The road surface is generally soft and sandy, but occasionally there are more rocky spots, where drivers have to deal with potholes, particularly on repeat runs.

Tänak said: "Our goal is to get back in shape after a difficult weekend in Croatia," referring to last month's event, where he came fourth.

"Portugal usually has soft and sandy roads, and it can be quite difficult on the second time round, because the gravel is getting more and more disturbed after each passing car."

Friday's order will see Tänak start fourth, after Ogier, Neuville and Evans.

While this is the first time Tänak, 33, from Saaremaa, has driven the Hyundai i20 on the Portuguese tracks, he won the event in 2019 for Toyota. Last year's event was canceled due to the pandemic.

Rally Portugal's past events have demonstrated a diversity of winning drivers and cars, with no two of either winning more than once.

Tänak as noted won for Toyota in 2019, while current teammate Thierry Neuville was victorious in the Hyundai in 2018. Seven-times world champion Sebastien Ogier picked up one of his five Portuagal wins in 2017 for Ford, while Northern Irish Driver Kris Meeke triumphed for Citroen – who currently do not compete in the WRC series – in 2016. Finally in 2015, Finn Jari-Matti Latvala won for VW, another manufacturer currently not represented in WRC.

Hyundai team boss Andrea Adamo said the goal is to show that they were actually more powerful in terms of manufacturers than they have demonstrataed so far this season. 

"We don't just want to be in the competition, we want to demonstrate our intentions for the title," Adamo said.

"This is a rally where we've had success before, but that doesn't matter anymore. We have to get it done, and I'm confident that our team and drivers will do exactly that," Adamo added.

Friday sees six stages, three routes run twice each, with no lunch break, followed by the Mortagua speed test – its first outing in 20 years – and the Lousada test before spectators.

Saturday sees the focus move from Porto to the Cabreira Mountains, where six tests (two times three again) and then a speed test on the streets of Portao.

Sunday's final day sees five stages, two speed tests and the Fafe points stage, which includes a famous jump.

Readers with Estonian can follow the events on ERR's sports portal's blog here.

The full schedule is below.

WRC Rally de Portugal schedule, May 20-23 2021:

Thursday:

Test Paredes 4,60 km 11.01 EVANS Winner

Friday:

SS1 Lousa 1 12,35 km 10.08
SS2 Gois 1 19,51 km 11.08
SS3 Arganil 1 18,82 km 12.08
SS4 Lousa 2 12,35 km 14.31
SS5 Gois 2 19,51 km 15.31
SS6 Arganil 2 18,82 km 16.38
SS7 Mortagua 18,16 km 18.05
SS8 SSS Lousada 3,36 km 21.03

Saturday:

SS9 Vieira do Minho 1 20,64 km 10.08
SS10 Cabeceiras de Basto 1 22,37 km 11.08
SS11 Amarante 1 37,92 km 12.24
SS12 Vieira do Minho 2 20,64 km 16.38
SS13 Cabeceiras de Basto 2 22,37 km 17.38
SS14 Amarante 2 37,92 km 18.54
SS15 SSS Porto - Foz 3,30 km 21.03

Sunday:

SS16 Felgueiras 1 9,18 km 9.08
SS17 Montim 8,75 km 9.53
SS18 Fafe 1 11,18 km 10.38
SS19 Felgueiras 2 9,18 km 12.04
SS20 Fafe 2 (PK) 11,18 km 14.18

The WRC calendar for the 2021 season is as follows:

January 21-24: Rallye Automobile Monte Carlo. Winner: Sebastien Ogier (Toyota).
February 26-28:  Arctic Rally Finland. Winner: Ott Tänak (Hyundai).
April 22-25: Croatia Rally. Winner: Sebastien Ogier.
May 20-23: Rally de Portugal
June 3-6: Rally Italia Sardegna
July 24-27: Safari Rally Kenya
July 15-18: Rally Estonia
August 13-15: Ypres Rally Belgium
September 9-12: Acropolis Rally Greece
September 29-October 3: Rally Finland
October 14-17: RACC Rally Catalunya de España
November 11-14: Rally Japan

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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