Today, it started with a bad attack by Rovanperä, who won the first three stages of the day, argued in the morning, gaining more than 40 seconds against Sordo, who started the day just 10 seconds behind the champion.
“We woke up this morning and we decided it was a good day to have a meeting”, joked Finn, the youngest world champion ever, who won the race in Portugal in 2022, at the end of the first special competition, in Vieira do Minho, where he won by 12 seconds for the competition.
The Frenchman Pierre Loubet (Ford Puma) who did not cross the stage, was fourth, having a broken steering wheel after hitting the side of the road.
The champion track continued in Amarante 1, the longest part of the race, with more than 37 kilometers, and in Felgueiras 1.
“We changed small things in the suspension, to make us feel better and it worked”, he explained the Lusa organization, on the center of the afternoon.
During the day, Rovanperä gave relief to the competition, choosing a more defensive approach, without making the differences found in the morning.
However, he gained another 2.8 seconds over Sordo on the second pass through Vieira do Minho 2, the first of the afternoon, but allowed the Spaniard to win the next stage, in Amarante 2, but only by 0.7 seconds.
In Felgueiras, he won the special again by 4.9 seconds over Sordo, who was only fifth, before traveling to a stop through the super special in Lousada, setting up a head-to-head showdown with the Spaniard, who won for the second time on Saturday this. , in a section made in pairs.
“I’m very happy for the crowd and at least we were able to beat Kalle (Rovanperä) here,” commented Sordo.
The fiercest battle took place at the bottom of the podium, with Neuville finishing the morning in fourth place, just 0.9 seconds behind his teammate, Finland’s Esapekka Lappi (Hyundai i20).
At the time, fears began to flow that there were instructions within the Hyundai team to favor the Belgian, South Korea’s top brand in the World Drivers’ Championship, in fifth place at the start of this race.
“Team instructions? Only tomorrow, but we have to see”, ‘kicked’ Lappi.
Neuville, on the other hand, also avoided the subject. “I don’t know. We focus on our fight. It is important to add points to the constructors. With the lack of confidence we have in the car, it is difficult to be fast”, he warned.
However, during the afternoon, he would regain third place, on his second pass through Amarante, closing the day with an advantage of 2.3 seconds over Lappi.
But the goal “is the second place”, taken by the third element of Hyundai, Dani Sordo, who works only part-time in the championship.
“It is Cyril (Abiteboul, the team’s sporting director) who has to decide”, shot Neuville, who is already in the parc fermé.
Ott Tänak (Ford Puma), who was never satisfied with the car all day, finished fifth, 2.21.8 minutes behind the leader.
The Swede Oliver Solberg (Skoda Fábia) leads the WRC2, being the sixth of the meeting, by 35.4 seconds ahead of the British Gus Greensmith (Skoda Fábia) and almost 1.30 minutes to the Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen (Skoda Fábia), who is third. .
The day was also marked by the accident of Paraguayan driver Miguel Zaldivar (Hyundai i20), aged 54, on his second visit to Amarante.
The pilot was transported by helicopter to the hospital of S. João, in Porto, conscious, but with chest pain, while the Argentinian co-pilot José Diaz went to the unit of the same hospital by ambulance, with back pain.
For Sunday, the last four special stages of the Rally are planned, and 59.59 kilometers are planned, including 11.18 of the Fafe section, which serves as a ‘power stage’, which distributes 15 points for the fifth fastest.