Toyota arrives in force in Portugal with Ogier, Evans and Rovanperä

Toyota arrives in force in Portugal with Ogier, Evans and Rovanperä
Toyota arrives in force in Portugal with Ogier, Evans and Rovanperä

It is in the hinterland of Coimbra, south of Porto, that the World Rally Championship (WRC) resumes this weekend.

During this 5e round of the season, Toyota will try to break away from the manufacturer’s championship and put Hyundai in its rearview mirror. To do this, the Japanese team is arriving in Portugal with an armada of four crews including multiple world champions Kalle Rovanperä and Sébastien Ogier.

First duel Ogier-Rovanperä

The Frenchman, eight-time world champion, returns to well-known land, where he won five times (2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2017). Three weeks after winning in Croatia, where he won his 100e podium in WRC, the Gapençais will aim for a 60e success in the premier category of rallying.

“I am delighted to return after a year of absence in Portugal, where I have very good memories. I haven’t driven on dirt for a while but I’ve had some good tests so I can’t wait to get started,” said the 40-year-old.

For the first time this season, he will face his Finnish teammate Kalle Rovanperä, two-time reigning world champion and two-time holder in Portugal. The two men, engaged in a partial program with Toyota this season, had each competed in two rallies until then.

Neuville-Evans battle for the title

“The fight could be close because the drivers know the course well. Our starting position could help us, but it will also depend on the conditions because the rain could change everything,” explained Rovanperä.

For the drivers’ classification, Belgian leader Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) and his British runner-up Elfyn Evans (Toyota), who is six points behind, will continue their mano a mano during an event appreciated by the big names.

“We will need consistency and the right settings. My objective is to optimize performances on Friday and Saturday and to give everything on Sunday to collect as many points as possible,” explained Neuville.

Fourmaux to confirm

Toyota, which has the right to enter four cars but must choose only three to score points in the constructors’ world championship, has logically bet on its two luxury wildcards in addition to Evans to increase its current lead of seven points on Hyundai.

The Japanese Takamoto Katsuta, who is playing the entire season, will however be able to score points for the driver classification.

To limit the damage, Hyundai will obviously count on Neuville, but also on the Estonian Ott Tänak, who was effective in Croatia. Frenchman Adrien Fourmaux (Ford/M-Sport) will try to confirm his superb start to the season, symbolized by his third place in the championship.

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