At only 21 years old, Rovanperä thus strengthens his position as leader of the Championship, now with a 46-point advantage over his runner-up, the Belgian Thierry Neuville (Hyundai).

In command of the race since the penultimate stage on Saturday, the young driver completed the 21st and final timed special stage with an advantage of 15 seconds over Evans and two minutes and 17 seconds over Sordo.

And with five bonus points, for his best time in this Power Stage.

"At the moment, it seems that we are on a very good path! To be honest, to start first (on the road, as championship leader, editor's note) and fight for a victory like that, it's really good. Our car was perfect as always," Rovanperä savored after the finish.

Rovanperä's victory is the fifth of his WRC career, the third in a row after successes in Sweden and Croatia.

As a result, he is even more comfortably installed in first place in the World Championship standings.

young leader

He is the youngest leader in WRC history with three wins in four rounds and also the youngest winner in Portugal.

This fourth round of the season, reputed to be difficult due to its rough dirt roads, was mastered without the slightest hitch by the Finnish driver, winner of eight specials.

Impressive Friday and Saturday, during two days marked by mechanical problems and repeated retirements of the ogres Sébastien Loeb (Ford) and Sébastien Ogier (Toyota), now "freelancers", Rovanperä perfectly managed his short lead Sunday morning in the last five stages .

Kalle Rovanpera's Toyota Yaris soars to victory in the Portugal Rally in Fafe, May 22, 2022 MIGUEL RIOPA AFP

During his breathless showdown with Evans, previous winner on Lusitanian soil, he always appeared relaxed and never seemed under pressure.

Behind his youthful face, Rovenperä hides an imperturbable character and, behind the wheel of his hybrid Toyota Yaris, a talent that allows him to remain efficient whatever the conditions on the road.

When many drivers lamented the breakage of their car or the weather conditions, the son of Harri Rovanperä displayed unfailing enthusiasm.

Second in the championship at the start of this 4th round, Neuville (Hyundai) was disappointing and had to settle for fifth place overall.

The 33-year-old Belgian, winner on Portuguese soil in 2018, was notably penalized by the loss of a wheel during SS8 on Friday, a hitch which caused him to lose precious time.

'Congratulating Toyota'

"I gave it my all, but I had no aerodynamics and I had a few moments where I lost the car. I think we can congratulate Toyota for their good result this weekend and for their reliability. “, conceded Neuville at the end of the last special.

In the constructors' championship, Toyota, thanks to this double, now has 175 points.

The Japanese brand has further widened the gap on Hyundai (116) and the Ford of the M-Sport team (94).

Sébastien Loeb, driving his MS Ford, was unlucky on the roads of the Portugal Rally, May 21, 2022 in Vieira do Minho MIGUEL RIOPA AFP

If Neuville managed to make up for part of his delay, Sébastien Loeb and Sébastien Ogier were never really able to measure up to Rovanperä on Portuguese soil.

The multiple world champions have chained misadventures between driver errors and problems with their car.

Loeb, 48, retired for the first time on Friday after hitting a safety wall on SS5.

Then he had to give up the rally on Saturday after an engine failure on SS11.

And Ogier was no luckier.

On Friday, he threw in the towel after a second puncture on SS7 and on Saturday, an accident on SS11 finally forced him to stop for the day.

"It's part of the game and it was a difficult weekend for us. We can only use this experience for the next time on gravel," said the eight-time world champion after Sunday's race.

© 2022 AFP

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