The eight-time world champion stopped in stage 6 after receiving a puncture to the front left side, losing more than two minutes in the process when he and co-driver Benjamin Veylas set up a spare wheel.

After winning stage 5, Auger was third, just 4.8 seconds away from rally leader and Toyota teammate Elfin Evans when the puncture occurred.

“It’s not easy and we manage Pirelli like that, a good combination,” Auger said when asked what happened at the end of the stage.

However, even worse, the rough gravel stage again bit Ojir on the next test. The second puncture caused the Toyota driver to limp before eventually leaving the driveway.

By choosing just one spare for the afternoon cycle, the puncture stopped Auger’s hopes of battling for a record sixth victory in Portugal this year.

It also follows the retirement of longtime rival Sebastian Loeb, who damaged the right rear suspension of his M-Sport Ford Puma when he broke through the wall on stage 5.

Sebastian Loeb left Portugal rally with damage to his M-Sport Ford Puma Rally1

Photo: Sebastian Loeb

Ogier wasn’t the only driver suffering from tire problems, as a number of problems hit several sections of Rally1, which uses the new updated Pirelli gravel tire.

Otto Tanaka of Hyundai suffered almost the same fate as Ogier: the Estonian received punctures in stages 6 and 7.

The tank dropped from fifth to 10th, losing more than three minutes. Fortunately, the decision to wear a second spare will allow the 2019 champion to continue.

Before Tanaka’s misfortune, M-Sport’s Adrien Furmo was the first of the riders to get into trouble when his front left broke away from the rim in stage 5 when he set out to set the fastest time.

The Frenchman’s teammate Craig Brin faced drama in the tires after puncturing the front left in stage 6, which proved particularly difficult for crews to get through.

“This stage is completely destroyed, I could get it in about 150 places because there are boulders everywhere. It’s a lottery,” Brin said.

Gus Greensmith completed a hat-trick with punctures for the M-Sport team when he suffered a failure from the left back, which dropped him to sixth place after Dani Sorda of Hyundai.

After a full dramatic day, Toyota’s Elfin Evans headed into the penultimate leg of the day with a 7.0-second lead over Hyundai’s Thierry Neville, and championship leader Calais Ravanpera was third, despite the fact that he needed to clear the road as the first runner.

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