Portugal WRC: Neuville leads amid afternoon shake-up

Hyundai's Thierry Neuville leads Rally Portugal after Friday afternoon's loop, as problems for a number of drivers shook up the lead order.

Sebastien Ogier's M-Sport Ford Fiesta was the afternoon's early casualty, but problems for all three of the morning's fastest drivers, coupled with a fastest time on the final stage of the loop, helped elevate Neuville up the order.

Kris Meeke jumped into the lead of the rally for a second time with the fastest time on SS5, but fell to fifth on the next stage when his Citroen suffered a left-rear puncture on the Caminha test.

That allowed Neuville to move ahead of the Briton into fourth, and the Belgian then jumped into the lead of the event with the fastest time on the final stage after issues for Dani Sordo, Hayden Paddon and Craig Breen.

Paddon had started the final Ponte de Lima stage in the lead, but was reported as stopped around 1.5 miles into the test. The stage was subsequently halted following Paddon's incident.

Hyundai later stated that Paddon's incident had blocked the stage and that while he and co-driver Seb Marshall had "exited the car on their own", Paddon had been taken to hospital for "precautionary" checks. 

Midday leader Dani Sordo had been just 3.2 seconds shy of teammate Paddon before SS7, but reported a cracked rim at the end of Caminha, and then completed the final stage 29.7s slower than Neuville.

Breen had also moved into the top three but lost more than two minutes after stopping to change a tyre early on the Ponte de Lima stage. 

Those issues mean Neuville holds a 7.3s advantage over the M-Sport Ford Fiesta of Elfyn Evans, who steered clear of trouble and set the second-fastest time on SS7.

Meeke ended the loop third, but was furious at a tyre delamination towards the end of the final stage that cost him a further 10s.

Sordo still sits fourth, while Esapekka Lappi holds fifth in the sole remaining Toyota after teammates Ott Tanak and Jari-Matti Latvala retired in the morning. 

Breen is sixth, 2m19.9s off the lead, and the last of the WRC cars to have made the end of the stage after Paddon's car blocked the way.

Andreas Mikkelsen should have been in contention at the front of the pack, but he appeared to suffer a power steering failure on SS6 and lost the best part of a minute.

Having missed his start time for SS7, Mikkelsen did then start Ponte de Lima in his Hyundai, but onboards then showed the i20 stopped with its bonnet up on the stage.

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About this article
Series WRC
Event Rally Portugal
Drivers Thierry Neuville
Teams Hyundai Motorsport
Article type Leg report