WRC Rally Portugal preview: Can Rovanpera hold off the Sebs?



Complicating Rovanperä’s hopes of a top result in Portugal will be the return of the two most successful rally drivers in history, Sébastien Loeb and Sébastien Ogier. The two French legends delivered an epic duel for victory on the Monte, with Loeb eventually claiming the top spot (and his 80th WRC victory). Since then, both have been busy trying their hand at circuit racing: Loeb in the DTM and Ogier in the World Endurance Championship.

Their time away gives them more favourable road positions for Portugal, although M-Sport Ford driver Loeb is remarkably still fourth in the standings, with Toyota’s Ogier in eighth. After years of arriving in Portugal as one of the championship leaders, Ogier in particular is relishing a golden opportunity to go for a record-breaking sixth win in the country, with a useful starting position.

The two Sebs are well-placed to triumph in the battle of the generations, but Rovanperä has the advantage of seat time in the complex new Rally1 machinery. With Portugal being the first gravel event for all of the drivers in their new cars, the ability to be straight up to speed on Friday could be even more important than where you start in the road order.

But there’s another man who could spoil the party for all of them, with an even better starting position than Ogier. Pre-season, Elfyn Evans was tipped as the championship favourite, having come close the previous two seasons. He was quickly up to speed in his new Toyota, but the more powerful and heavier cars are trickier to drive than their predecessors, and errors in both Monte Carlo and Sweden proved costly in terms of points.


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