The blows force Ogier to retire

The eight-time world champion stopped in Stage 6 after suffering a stitch in the left front, which was lost more than two minutes into the process as he and co-driver Benjamin Veillas installed a spare tire.

After winning Stage 5, Ogier was in third, just 4.8s away from rally leader and Toyota teammate Elfyn Evans when the puncture occurred.

“It was rough, and we were driving a Pirelli so, a good combination,” Ogier said when asked what happened at the end of the stage.

Worse, however, the rough gravel stages again bitten Ogier on the next test. The second puncture left the Toyota driver limp before finally stopping in a lane.

Having been selected to take just one extra for the afternoon loop, the puncture ended Ogier’s hopes of fighting for a record-breaking Portugal’s sixth win this year.

It also follows the retirement of longtime rival Sebastien Loeb, who damaged the right suspension in the back of his M-Sport Ford Puma when he crashed into a wall in Stage 5.

Sébastien Loeb retired from Rally Portugal with an injury to his M-Sport Ford Puma Rally1

Photo by: Sébastien Loeb

Ogier isn’t the only driver to have suffered tire issues as a series of problems hit some on the Rally1 field, which runs Pirelli’s newly updated gravel rubber.

Hyundai’s Ott Tanak suffered almost the same fate as Ogier with Estonian punctures in Stage 6 and Stage 7.

Tanak dropped from fifth to 10th after being beaten by more than three minutes. Fortunately, a decision to bring in a second extra will allow the 2019 champion to continue.

Before Tanak’s misfortune, M-Sport’s Adrien Fourmaux was the first of the drivers to be hit by the problem when his left front came off the rim in Stage 5, when he appeared on the course to set the fastest time.

Frenchman teammate Craig Breen next encountered a drama at the wheel after punching his left front in Stage 6 that made it particularly difficult for crews to navigate.

“This stage was completely destroyed. I could get it in almost 150 places because there were rocks everywhere. It was a lottery,” Breen said.

Gus Greensmith completed a hat-trick of punctures for the M-Sport team when he suffered a left-rear failure that dropped him to sixth behind Hyundai’s Dani Sordo.

After an afternoon full of drama, Toyota’s Elfyn Evans headed to the penultimate stage of the day with a 7.0s lead over Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville, with championship leader Kalle Rovanpera third despite the departure of road as first runner.

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