The car led the WRC support category for the duration of the Matosinhos-based event, with team-mate and defending WRC 2 champion Jan Kopecký moving to the front when his 18-year-old team-mate suffered a puncture on Friday.
Rovanperä moved back to the front on Saturday morning’s opener and remained there for the rest of the event, ultimately building a lead of more than one minute.
The Finn admitted that lead was almost as much of a curse as a blessing.
“It’s not so easy to drive when you have a one-minute lead,” he said. “You want to drive fast, but you know you don’t have to be flat-out in case you make a mistake. I think this is harder than when you are in the big fight.
“The car was fantastic. Of course, I knew what was coming from the testing I had done with the car, but it’s still really nice to take it to the stages and see how fast it is.
“So much is new with this car, but, I think, the main thing is the work the team has done on the chassis. Now we have a car which feels easy to drive and when you have a car which is like this, you can take good confidence. When you have confidence then you can be quick.”
Kopecký came to Portugal fresh from giving the new Fabia a world premiere victory at the Rallye Česky Krumlov in the Czech Republic a fortnight ahead of Portugal. Despite not driving on gravel since last October, he delivered a one-two category finish.
Both Rovanperä and Kopecký will be back in WRC 2 Pro action at next week’s Rally Italia-Sardegna (13 – 16 June).