Reigning WRC 2 champion Kopecký, who became father to a baby boy last week, completed a hot and dusty opening leg with a 4.8sec advantage over teenager Rovanperä.

Rovanperä was quickest through the opening three dirt road speed tests to build a near-30sec lead. A puncture cost 40sec and relegated the Finn to second, but two more stage wins enabled him to close on his Czech colleague.

Lukasz Pieniazek was a distant third in a Ford Fiesta, 1min 53.6sec off the lead, while Mads Østberg failed to complete the day in his Citroën C3.

Brake problems and damaged suspension delayed him this morning before three afternoon punctures eventually stopped him as the Norwegian had only two spares onboard. He will restart tomorrow.

Ole Christian Veiby led a pulsating WRC 2 contest in his Volkswagen Polo R5. The Norwegian completed the seven speed tests with a 25.2sec advantage over Nikolay Gryazin’s Fabia, with Pierre-Louis Loubet a further 5.8sec back in a similar car.

Ole Christian Veiby led WRC 2 in a Volkswagen Polo

Loubet led before Veiby moved to the front in the second stage. He claimed three fastest times and was never headed despite the best efforts of Takamoto Katsuta. The Japanese driver kept the pressure on, before a penultimate stage puncture relegated him from second to fifth.

Loubet remained within a handful of seconds of the lead before falling back in SS5 when he was delayed by a limping Østberg.

Eerik Pietarinen was fourth in another Fabia, just 2.2sec behind Loubet. Katsuta and Emil Bergqvist completed the top six.

Rhys Yates retired with a double puncture and Jari Huttunen stopped with suspension damage. Locals Miguel Barbosa and Pedro Meireles also made early exits, the latter’s Polo catching fire in SS6.

Head to WRC+ to watch All Live from Vodafone Rally de Portugal, including every stage broadcast live, breaking service park news and expert studio analysis.


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