WRC Estonia: Untouchable Rovanpera storms to commanding lead

Kalle Rovanpera produced a near-perfect drive to pull clear of Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans at Rally Estonia to edge closer to a fifth World Rally Championship win of the season.

Listen to this article

The Toyota driver won seven of the nine stages as he blitzed his rivals across a challenging Saturday punctuated by intermittent rain showers.

Evans won the day’s opening test before Rovanpera rattled off seven consecutive stage wins to open up a 29.1s lead over the Welshman heading into Sunday’s final six stages.

Hyundai’s Ott Tanak was unable to mount a challenge to the two Toyota drivers, leaving the four-time Rally Estonia winner third, some 1m11.5s in arrears.

Team-mate Thierry Neuville endured a relative quiet run to end the day in fourth after benefiting from a puncture for Toyota’s Esapekka Lappi incurred during the morning loop.

Unable to match the frontrunners, Neuville was 2m20.3s adrift, but a more than minute ahead of fifth-placed Takamoto Katsuta. M-Sport’s Adrien Fourmaux ended the day 10.9s behind the Japanese driver in sixth, with Lappi seventh.

The M-Sport pair of Pierre-Louis Loubet and Gus Greensmith reached service in eighth and ninth.

Despite sunny conditions, several wet patches and muddy ruts remained as crews tackled a second pass of the morning stages.

Rovanpera felt he wasn’t “awake enough” for the first pass of the Elva stage, but second time around he set a blistering pace to move a further 3.3s clear of nearest rival Evans. The time came despite the Finn not feeling content with his efforts.

“I felt like I left a lot of time there, but the time is still good,” he said.

Tanak produced a committed run to keep on the tail of the Toyotas, 0.5s slower than Evans, while Neuville elected to use the run as a test session given his comfortable gap over Katsuta.

Ott Tanak, Martin Jarveoja, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Ott Tanak, Martin Jarveoja, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

Benefitting from a set-up tweak, Rovanpera’s charge continued into Stage 15, which was bone dry unlike the previous test.

The Toyota driver, who said he was “just driving normally” claimed his fifth consecutive stage win, pulling another 3.5s away from Evans, who could only set the third quickest time behind Tanak.

Further down the order, Hyundai’s Oliver Solberg had a wild moment as he fought against chronic understeer from his i20 N, he declared was “unsafe”.

Heavy rain returned during the next stage to once again throw a curveball for the drivers as they attempted to navigate through deep ruts.

However, there was no stopping Rovanpera as he reeled off another stage win to push the lead out to almost half a minute.

Evans did his best to push through difficult conditions but ended 3.5s shy of his team-mate as Tanak once again set the third fastest time.

The trio denied a charging Solberg the opportunity for a maiden WRC stage win as the Swede clocked an impressive time to sit fourth on the timing screen, despite a wild sideways moment over a jump.

There was however drama at the very start of the stage as M-Sport’s Craig Breen was forced to stop due to puncture caused by running over an anti-cut device that was lying on the road. The Irishman lost two minutes in the process.

The rain eased for the penultimate test of the day but deep ruts ensured the road conditions remained challenging.

But it was similar story at the front as Rovanpera claimed his 10th stage win of the event by the narrowest of margins, as he pipped Evans by 0.1s. The pair once again denied Solberg a stage win as the young Swede continued his return to form.

Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

Rovanpera’s stage-winning streak was ended by Fourmaux on the short spectator-friendly super special to end the day.

Fourmaux denied Solberg a stage win by 0.1s, with Evans third fastest a further 0.3s back. Evans did take 0.4s out of Rovanpera’s lead, as the latter clocked the fifth best time.

In WRC2, Andreas Mikkelsen will take a 10.6s lead over Teemu Suninen into the final day.

shares
comments

Related video

WRC Estonia: Rovanpera charges into healthy lead from Evans
Previous article

WRC Estonia: Rovanpera charges into healthy lead from Evans

Next article

Evans had "no answer" to Rovanpera's WRC Estonia pace

Evans had "no answer" to Rovanpera's WRC Estonia pace
How Rally New Zealand encapsulated record-breaking Rovanpera’s WRC title charge Prime

How Rally New Zealand encapsulated record-breaking Rovanpera’s WRC title charge

Kalle Rovanpera’s coronation as the new World Rally Championship king had been a long time coming, only to be postponed by hiccups in Belgium and Greece. But at Rally New Zealand the “Full Send” Finn demonstrated exactly how he's been able to rewrite the rallying record book as he stormed to victory to become the youngest ever world champion

WRC
14 h
How team orders could make Hyundai's historic Acropolis Rally a Greek tragedy Prime

How team orders could make Hyundai's historic Acropolis Rally a Greek tragedy

Thierry Neuville led a maiden Hyundai 1-2-3 in the World Rally Championship, as the previously soft i20 N became a battle-hardened Greek warrior at the Acropolis Rally. But with team orders in play between the winner and Hyundai’s title protagonist Ott Tanak, could the result come back to haunt the team?

WRC
Sep 12, 2022
How Tanak triumphed amid a series of Belgium WRC blunders Prime

How Tanak triumphed amid a series of Belgium WRC blunders

After runaway World Rally Championship leader Kalle Rovanpera made his first major mistake of the season, the chance to take advantage was wide open for the chasing pack. Several of his rivals faltered to grasp the opportunity, but Ott Tanak made no such mistake and demonstrated his class with a third win of the campaign

WRC
Aug 22, 2022
Inside Toyota’s new WRC dream factory where rally conquerers come to life Prime

Inside Toyota’s new WRC dream factory where rally conquerers come to life

Toyota locked out the top four places in the World Rally Championship's recent Safari Rally Kenya in a clear indication of its GR Yaris Rally1 hybrid's pace and durability. Motorsport.com was recently given a tour of the new factory where its cars are designed, tested and built, and it reveals much about the commitment of the Japanese marque to continued WRC success.

WRC
Aug 19, 2022
How Rovanpera has reignited Finland's rallying obsession Prime

How Rovanpera has reignited Finland's rallying obsession

Finland may have a small population, but it has long enjoyed rallying success. Now that the nation has a new star to cheer in the form of Kalle Rovanpera, interest in the discipline is surging once again.

WRC
Aug 10, 2022
How Tanak spoiled Rovanpera's Finnish homecoming Prime

How Tanak spoiled Rovanpera's Finnish homecoming

Kalle Rovanpera and Toyota went into Rally Finland as overwhelming favourites but came away as runners-up to a resurgent Ott Tanak and Hyundai. While it may have dampened the homecoming party, it still moved the Finn closer to the ultimate World Rally Championship prize

WRC
Aug 8, 2022
Inside Hyundai’s F1-spec mobile WRC home Prime

Inside Hyundai’s F1-spec mobile WRC home

Hyundai is one of the World Rally Championship's big three, and has a brand-new travelling facility befitting of that status. The team invited Motorsport.com for a behind-the-scenes look at its state-of-the-art HQ, which comes complete with all the bells and whistles you'd expect of a top Formula 1 outfit.

WRC
Jul 27, 2022
How Rovanpera's latest masterclass left his WRC rivals stumped Prime

How Rovanpera's latest masterclass left his WRC rivals stumped

After trailing Toyota teammate Elfyn Evans for much of Rally Estonia's opening day, WRC points leader Kalle Rovanpera took advantage of a change in the weather and never looked back afterwards. Winning for a fifth time this year at the scene of his 2021 breakthrough, and with a breathtaking powerstage bonus for good measure, his advantage is already looking difficult to topple.

WRC
Jul 18, 2022