Neuville regains championship lead with a Portugal victory

Neuville regains championship lead with a Portugal victory

Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul
photo: Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

Thierry Neuville won Rally de Portugal on Sunday afternoon to swing the FIA World Rally Championship pendulum firmly in his favour. He goes back in the lead of the overall standings while Sebastien Ogier had a bad weekend.

Victory at the gruelling four-day dirt road encounter promoted Neuville to the top of the standings as the series approaches its midpoint. After starting 10 points behind reigning champion Sébastien Ogier, the Belgian leaves Portugal with a 19-point advantage.


Neuville steered his Hyundai i20 away from trouble during a weekend of attrition that sidelined many frontrunners

He kept the lead for two days while still maintaining enough pace to win by 40.0sec from Elfyn Evans’ Ford Fiesta.

Fellow title challengers Ogier and Ott Tanak ended pointless after falling foul of Friday’s rock-strewn speed tests. Meanwhile, Neuville pressed home his advantage by claiming four extra bonus points in the final Power Stage.

He moved to the front near the end of Friday’s first leg after the lead changed hands six times in a frantic opening. He doubled his advantage yesterday and eased through Sunday’s finale to secure his second win of the year.

“It was a clever approach all weekend,” he said. “I had a fantastic car which was working well and I felt comfortable. We can be proud of what we achieved here There are a lot of Portuguese mechanics in the team and I think the party is going to be big tonight!”

Second place for Evans eased the pressure after a disappointing season

Meanwhile, teammate Teemu Suninen helped erase the frustration of Ogier’s blank weekend in the M-Sport Ford squad. He claimed his maiden podium. He finished 7.3sec behind the Welshman.

Suninen held off Esapekka Lappi and Dani Sordo in an intense fight for the final podium place. Lappi was 7.4sec adrift of his fellow Finn in a Toyota Yaris with Spaniard Sordo 6.2sec further back in his i20.

Sordo went to bed last night in third but woke up this morning in fourth after receiving a 10sec penalty for dislodging two bales on a Porto street stage roundabout on Friday night.

Round seven promises a high-summer shootout on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia. The all-gravel Rally Italia Sardegna is based in Alghero on 8 – 10 June.