Kalle Rovanpera reflects on fierce Friday battle at Rally de Portugal

Kalle Rovanpera reflects on fierce Friday battle at Rally de Portugal

Festus Chuma 10:20 - 11.05.2024

Kalle Rovanperä leads Rally de Portugal after a fierce Friday battle fending off teammate Sébastien Ogier amid intense competition.

Kalle Rovanperä emerged as the leader after a fiercely contested Friday at the Vodafone Rally de Portugal marking the fifth round of the 2024 FIA World Rally Championship. 

The young Finn and his Toyota GR Yaris clinched the top spot by a slender margin of just one second over his teammate Sébastien Ogier after a day that saw the lead change hands multiple times among five different stage winners.

The action-packed day left the top four drivers separated by a mere 5.4 seconds, setting the stage for a thrilling weekend ahead. Rovanperä, who started the day fifth, fought back with consistent top-three finishes in the subsequent seven stages, despite battling understeer issues that challenged his control over the vehicle.

"It has been a great battle the whole day.I couldn’t do much more in the last stage because my tyres were in such bad condition at the rear. It was just about surviving. These battles are only fun if you're winning, so let's see what tomorrow brings," Rovanperä admitted.

The turning point for Rovanperä came during the afternoon’s second test at Lousã, where he overtook early leader Takamoto Katsuta. 

His performance peaked on the penultimate stage at Arganil, before Ogier’s impressive run in the Mortágua finale narrowed the gap, intensifying the pressure on the young Finn.

Ogier, a veteran rally driver, showcased his skill and experience, quickly moving from fourth to second overall. 

His day was not without challenges, as he faced technical difficulties including an intercom failure and a loss of hybrid power, which likely cost him the lead.

"Tough conditions today, especially with the intercom and power issues, but we managed to push through. The competition is incredibly tight, and every second is going to count in this rally," Ogier reflected.

Meanwhile, Katsuta held firm, clinching a stage win at Mortágua 1 and remaining competitive throughout the day. 

He ended the day securely in third place, just behind his teammates, with Ott Tänak trailing closely in his Hyundai i20 N, despite admitting to discomfort with his vehicle's handling.

On the other side of the spectrum, misfortune struck Elfyn Evans, another title contender, who, along with his co-driver Scott Martin, faced unique challenges including the loss of their physical pace notes. 

This setback saw them relying on digital copies on a mobile phone, further complicated by a tire issue, which cost them nearly a minute.

Hyundai's Thierry Neuville, the championship leader entering this round, tackled the disadvantage of opening the road but managed to remain competitive, ending the day just behind teammate Dani Sordo, who won three stages despite a hybrid power loss.

The rally continues on Saturday with a demanding schedule featuring 145km of racing across two loops of four stages, culminating in the Lousada super special stage. 

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