“It feels great to finally drive the new car. We’ve been testing it a lot and it’s fantastic to experience it in a rally. It’s faster and handles better, so I’m enjoying the stages. The car is one of the reasons we are experiencing such a trouble-free rally,” the young Finn commented. In Portugal, he finished first in the RC2 class and the WRC 2 Pro category, more than a minute ahead of the second fastest driver. As most of the starting field were plagued by technical problems, Rovanperä actually finished sixth in the overall standings – even overtaking several drivers in the much more powerful RC1 cars.
To make it even better, that second fastest driver was none other than Jan Kopecký, which meant that the two ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo crews took the first two places. The Czech driver’s great times weren’t spoilt even though the hood sprang open, blocking his view, on one of the stages. “I knew that if we stopped and I went to go and close the hood, we’d lose a lot of time. I tried to continue as fast as possible. To be honest, I was surprised at how good the visibility was – this was the first time in my career that this had happened to me,” he laughed later in the service park.