Incredible Sebastien Loeb! Two years after his last appearance on a gravel rally, the nine-time world champion is leading Rally de Portugal, his second appearance in the WRC this year after his victory in Monte-Carlo.
Eighth in the opening special on asphalt on Thursday evening, then hampered by the dust which had invaded the passenger compartment of his Ford Puma due to a badly closed door and by his fourth position on the road during the first two stages disputed this Friday morning, Loeb was in seventh place at the end of SS3. Isabelle Galmiche, to take first place.
“We expected to struggle this morning because of our position on the road but in the end we find ourselves in the lead, he summarized. Having two hard tires helped me a lot and I pushed hard on the last stage. We drove well and the car works well so the loop was very good. »
Loeb is 0”5 ahead of Elfyn Evans (Toyota), who benefits from a very advantageous starting position. Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) completes the provisional podium, 3”3 behind the leader. Sébastien Ogier, also back in the WRC after a four-month break, is sixth. “I can’t go any faster and I don’t really know why, we’ll have to analyze all that with the team”commented the Toyota driver at the finish of SS 4. Nothing is lost for Ogier, who is only 6”7 behind Loeb.
The other two Frenchmen had a more complicated start. Third fastest in SS 2, Pierre-Louis Loubet then fell into line and is in eleventh position, 24”3 behind his teammate at M-Sport. Also on Ford, Adrien Fourmaux is 11”9 behind the other French hopeful.