Thierry Neuville (Hyundai i20) became the new leader of the World Rally after prevailing in the Rally of Portugal, sixth date of the specialty calendar. The Belgian, who achieved his eighth success in the WRC, also took advantage of the disappointing performance of the French Sebastien Ogier (Ford Fiesta), who abandoned in the first stage and did not score points despite reenlisting.
Leader of the test since Friday, Neuville finally overtook the British Elfyn Evans (Ford Fiesta) for 40 seconds and the Finn Teemu suninen (Ford Fiesta) by 47, to score his second victory of the season after that obtained in Sweden.
“We approached the race in a smart way. I also had a great car that worked well and that made me feel comfortable. We can be proud of what we have achieved ”, Neuville stated.
On the stony and dusty roads of northern Portugal, Neuville was far superior to his rivals, especially after the abandonment of his main adversary for victory, the British Chris Meeke (Citroën C3), on Saturday's 12th special after suffering an accident.
Ogier, who arrived in Portugal as world leader, defected on Friday after hitting the road and finally finished in 21st position.
After his first victory in Portugal and on the verge of reaching the halfway point of the championship (six rounds played out of 13), the world runner-up in 2013, 2016 and 2017, seems in better condition than ever to be crowned champion of the discipline for the first time.
In the championship, Neuville takes the lead with 119 points and leads Ogier by 19 before taking on the seventh round of the calendar, the Rally of Sardinia, in two weeks.
Among manufacturers, Hyundai took advantage of the Belgian's victory to maintain its differences with respect to Ford (175 points to 162).