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Stage report
WRC Rally Estonia

WRC Estonia: Rovanpera extends winning streak as victory march continues

Toyota’s Kalle Rovanpera continued his relentless march towards victory at Rally Estonia by extending his World Rally Championship stage-winning streak to 12 on Sunday morning.

The reigning world champion remained in a class of his own to claim the three morning stages to increase his rally lead to 46.5s over Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville.

Hyundai’s Esapekka Lappi managed to continue to hold onto third, increasing his margin over Toyota’s Elfyn Evans by 9.1s ahead of the rally-ending Power Stage this afternoon.

Hyundai’s Teemu Suninen remained in fifth (+2m12.7s) but it was all change in the battle for sixth as Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta (+3m01.4s) snatched the position from M-Sport’s Pierre-Louis Loubet (+3m02.0s).

M-Sport’s Ott Tanak completed the Rally1 runners in eighth (+6m21.0s) following his five-minute engine change penalty on Thursday.

Holding a comfortable overnight lead after winning all nine stages on Saturday, Rovanpera could afford to back off on Sunday morning, but the Toyota driver had other ideas.

Although he claimed he wasn’t pushing, the Finn extended his consecutive stag-winning streak to 10 in a row after winning stage 18 (Karaski, 12.04km), which featured damp gravel roads after heavy rain on Saturday night.

“That's our pace at the moment with no risks and I cannot be any slower than that to be honest,” said Rovanpera after eclipsing Lappi’s benchmark by 2.7s.

Lappi’s effort once again put the Finn in the box seat to claim the final podium spot. The Hyundai driver was 2.3s faster than the chasing Evans.

Esapekka Lappi, Janne Ferm, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Esapekka Lappi, Janne Ferm, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo by: Romain Thuillier / Hyundai Motorsport

The time closed the gap to second-placed Neuville to 7.9s after the latter drove cautiously, struggling with the handling of his Hyundai.

Rovanpera’s intentions for the day were made clear on stage 19, the first pass through Kambja (18.5km) which will also host the rally-ending Power Stage.

The rally leader posted a time 4.6s faster than anyone else to rack up his 11th consecutive stage win.

“We could be a bit faster by pushing and taking risks but the driving is clean and that's why the clock is liking it,” said Rovanpera.

Evans emerged as Rovanpera’s nearest rival on the test as he breathed life back into the fight for third by taking 1.7s from Lappi to bring the deficit down to 7.9s.

The battle for sixth overall intensified after Katsuta managed to halve the gap to Loubet to 3.2s after a solid run.

Katsuta’s charge continued in Stage 20 (Karaski 12.04km) resulting in the Japanese taking 3.8s from Loubet to leap into sixth overall.

At the front, normal service continued as Rovanpera romped to his 12th consecutive stage win after pipping Lappi by 1.2s through the test. Lappi’s pace once again kept Evans at bay in the fight for third.

In WRC2, Andreas Mikkelsen held a slender 9.8s advantage over Sami Pajari, with the pair sitting ninth and 10th overall.

Rally Estonia concludes following the Power Stage this afternoon.

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