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WRC Estonia: Untouchable Rovanpera wins nine stages in a row

Kalle Rovanpera produced a perfect drive to win all of Saturday’s nine World Rally Championship stages to open up a commanding lead at Rally Estonia.

Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

McKlein / Motorsport Images

The reigning world champion delivered his best display of the season to date to transform a 3.0s overnight advantage into a 34.9s over Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville.

Neuville lost 6.5s to a slow puncture during the morning loop but was unable to match the pace of the Toyota driver.

Hyundai’s Esapekka Lappi will head into Sunday with a 7.3s margin over Toyota’s Elfyn Evans after an intense battle over third that ebbed and flowed over the day.

Teemu Suninen ended the day in a lonely fifth (+1m41.5s) on his Rally1 debut ahead of M-Sport’s Pierre-Louis Loubet (+2m25.5s), Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta (+2m32.5s), and home hero Ott Tanak, who recovered to eighth (+5m55.2s) after starting the day in 11th position.

After a clean sweep of the morning’s four stages, Rovanpera’s relentless pace showed no signs of abating when the action resumed on Saturday afternoon.

The Toyota driver notched up his fifth consecutive fastest time in Stage 13 (Elva 11.73km) with a time 3.6s faster than his nearest rival Neuville. It was a result that came as a surprise to the rally leader.

"I was sure that for the first time today it was not a good time. I was not pushing much, for sure the driving was clean, but I felt like I left some time in there,” said Rovanpera.

Lappi was only 0.2s slower than team-mate Neuville but crucially the Finn was 0.6s quicker than Evans to edge further clear in the fight for third overall.

Outside of the battle for the podium places, Tanak’s pass through the stage was hampered by a steering rack issue that he claimed stemmed from mistake made during the midday service. He was able to rectify the geometry of his Puma before stage 14 (Kanepi, 16.48km).

Rovanpera extended his stage winning streak in Kanepi with yet another mesmerising performance. Neuville had posted a benchmark that seemed a contender to challenge for a stage win before Rovanpera blew that out of the water by 3.8s to extend his rally lead to 27.7s.

Lappi once again had the edge over Evans to put 3.7s between himself and the Welshman as the fight for third overall continued.

Pierre-Louis Loubet, Nicolas Gilsoul, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1

Pierre-Louis Loubet, Nicolas Gilsoul, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1

Photo by: M-Sport

There was however drama for Loubet and Katsuta, who were involved in a battle for fifth overall.

Loubet was forced to complete the stage without hybrid power which helped Katsuta the gap between the pair to 6.7s. Loubet was able to see assistance to restore his hybrid power at the following regroup.

Although as Katsuta reached the stage end there was panic etched over his face when his GR Yaris appeared to be stuck in stage mode, before the car lost power completely at the time control.

Luckily he was able to fire the car up again after he and co-driver Aaron Johnston pushed the car out of the control zone.

Katsuta was back up to speed for stage 15 after revealing that he had suffered myriad of issues including an intercom problem that prompted the Japanese to switch crash helmets with Johnston. But it was his rally leading team-mate Rovanpera that continued to claim the headlines in the second pass through Elva.

Completely at ease behind the wheel, Rovanpera went on to score his ninth stage win of the event to open up a 30.9s lead over Neuville, who was 10s clear of third-placed Lappi.

The yo-yo battle between Evans and Lappi for third swung back in the former’s direction as the gap came down to 2.7s. Evans was able to take a second out of Lappi, who was visibly distraught with his effort having “pushed like hell” in the test.

However, Lappi dug deep to fight back on the following test, Stage 16, to post a time 2.9s faster than Evans to push the margin back out to 5.6s.

It was Rovanpera at the top of the timesheets as he continued his masterclass display by racking up an eighth stage win in a row by 2.7s from Neuville, who had a brief glance with an embankment during his run.

Rovanpera completed a clean sweep of Saturday’s stages by taking the final super special of the day by 0.9s. Lappi was Rovanpera’s nearest rival on the 3.35km short blast as the former put another 1.7s between him and Evans in the fight for the final podium.

Four more stages await the crews on Sunday.

WRC Estonia Saturday results

 
 
     
Driver Info
 
 
 
   
Cla Driver/Codriver # Car Class Penalty Total Time Interval
1
W. Creighton William Creighton
L. Regan Liam Regan Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy
52 Ford Fiesta Rally3 RC3   1:51'24.6  
2 Finland K. Rovanperä Kalle Rovanperä Finland J. Halttunen Jonne Halttunen Toyota Racing 69 Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 RC1   +11'04.7 11'04.7
3 Belgium T. Neuville Thierry Neuville Belgium M. Wydaeghe Martijn Wydaeghe Hyundai Motorsport 11 Hyundai i20 N Rally1 RC1   +11'38.3 33.6
4 Finland E. Lappi Esapekka Lappi Finland J. Ferm Janne Ferm Hyundai Motorsport 4 Hyundai i20 N Rally1 RC1   +11'49.2 10.9
5 Estonia O. Tanak Ott Tanak Estonia M. Jarveoja Martin Jarveoja M-Sport 8 Ford Puma Rally1 RC1   +11'53.5 4.3
6 United Kingdom E. Evans Elfyn Evans United Kingdom S. Martin Scott Martin Toyota Racing 33 Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 RC1   +11'54.8 1.3
7 Finland T. Suninen Teemu Suninen Finland M. Markkula Mikko Markkula Hyundai Motorsport 3 Hyundai i20 N Rally1 RC1   +12'42.3 47.5
8 France P. Loubet Pierre-Louis Loubet Belgium N. Gilsoul Nicolas Gilsoul M-Sport 7 Ford Puma Rally1 RC1   +13'18.0 35.7
9 Japan T. Katsuta Takamoto Katsuta Ireland A. Johnston Aaron Johnston Toyota Racing 18 Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 RC1   +13'31.0 13.0
10
B. Korhola Benjamin Korhola
P. Kelander Pekka Kelander Rautio Motorsport
50 Ford Fiesta Rally3 RC3   +14'55.9 1'24.9
11 Sweden O. Solberg Oliver Solberg United Kingdom E. Edmondson Elliott Edmondson 20 Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 RC2   +17'30.7 2'34.8
12 Norway A. Mikkelsen Andreas Mikkelsen Norway T. Eriksen Torstein Eriksen Toksport WRT 3 23 Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 RC2   +18'36.0 1'05.3
13
S. Pajari Sami Pajari
E. Mälkönen Enni Mälkönen Toksport WRT
24 Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 RC2   +18'51.1 15.1
14 United Kingdom G. Greensmith Gus Greensmith Sweden J. Andersson Jonas Andersson Toksport WRT 3 21 Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 RC2   +19'04.7 13.6
15 Finland E. Lindholm Emil Lindholm R. Hämäläinen Reeta Hämäläinen Hyundai Motorsport N 22 Hyundai i20 N Rally2 RC2   +19'42.5 37.8
16 Bolivia M. Bulacia Marco Bulacia Spain D. Vallejo Diego Vallejo Toksport WRT 27 Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 RC2   +20'24.9 42.4
17
R. Virves Robert Virves
C. Drew Craig Drew
26 Ford Fiesta Rally2 RC2   +20'35.0 10.1
18
M. Marczyk Mikołaj Marczyk
Poland S. Gospodarczyk Szymon Gospodarczyk
29 Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 RC2   +20'41.5 6.5
19
E. Kaur Egon Kaur
J. Viilo Jakko Viilo
25 Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 RC2   +20'55.0 13.5
20
J. McErlean Josh McErlean
Ireland J. Fulton James Fulton Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy
31 Hyundai i20 N Rally2 RC2   +21'57.3 1'02.3
21
E. Fernández Emilio Fernández
B. Rozada Borja Rozada
36 Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo RC2   +22'40.2 42.9
22
B. Bulacia Bruno Bulacia
A. Coronado Axel Coronado
35 Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 RC2   +22'58.3 18.1
23
R. Korhonen Roope Korhonen
A. Viinikka Anssi Viinikka Rautio Motorsport
47 Ford Fiesta Rally3 RC3   +27'15.3 4'17.0
24
G. Munster Grégoire Munster
L. Louka Louis Louka
58 Ford Fiesta Rally3 RC3   +28'06.6 51.3
25
K. Kasari Kaspar Kasari
R. Raidma Rainis Raidma
38 Škoda Fabia R5 RC2   +28'10.1 3.5
26
L. Pellier Laurent Pellier
K. Bronner Kévin Bronner
54 Ford Fiesta Rally3 RC3   +28'12.2 2.1
27
T. Herranen Toni Herranen
Finland M. Lukka Mikko Lukka
48 Ford Fiesta Rally3 RC3   +29'12.5 1'00.3
28
D. Jr. Diego Jr.
Spain R. Penate Rogelio Penate
53 Ford Fiesta Rally3 RC3   +30'15.4 1'02.9
29
A. Villanueva Alexander Villanueva
J. Murado José Murado
39 Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 RC2   +31'02.6 47.2
30
G. Linnamäe Georg Linnamäe
J. Morgan James Morgan
28 Hyundai i20 N Rally2 RC2   +31'17.3 14.7
31 Turkey A. Türkkan Ali Türkkan Turkey B. Erdener Burak Erdener Castrol Ford Team Türkiye 49 Ford Fiesta Rally3 RC3   +31'24.1 6.8
32
F. Kohn Filip Kohn
T. Woodburn Tom Woodburn
62 Ford Fiesta Rally3 RC3   +33'01.2 1'37.1
33
A. Zavaleta Alejandro Zavaleta
D. Sanjuan Diego Sanjuan
60 Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo RC2   +34'23.6 1'22.4
34 Germany A. Kremer Armin Kremer
E. Kremer Ella Kremer
40 Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 RC2   +35'32.9 1'09.3
35
P. Koik Priit Koik
K. Tamm Kristo Tamm
37 Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo RC2   +36'10.6 37.7
36
M. Miele Mauro Miele
L. Beltrame Luca Beltrame
41 Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 RC2   +37'30.0 1'19.4
37
R. Jürgenson Romet Jürgenson
S. Oja Siim Oja Team Estonia Autosport
65 Ford Fiesta Rally4 RC4   +37'43.2 13.2
38
R. Jr. Roberto Jr.
M. Barreiro Mauro Barreiro
55 Ford Fiesta Rally3 RC3   +37'53.7 10.5
39
H. Anwar Hamza Anwar
A. Kihurani Alexander Kihurani
59 Ford Fiesta Rally3 RC3   +40'12.1 2'18.4
40
B. Cumiskey Brendan Cumiskey
A. Kierans Arthur Kierans
51 Ford Fiesta Rally3 RC3   +40'54.1 42.0
41
F. Zaldivar Fabrizio Zaldivar
Argentina M. Der Ohannesian Marcelo Der Ohannesian Hyundai Motorsport N
30 Hyundai i20 N Rally2 RC2   +43'05.6 2'11.5
42
T. Rensonnet Tom Rensonnet
L. Dumont Loïc Dumont RACB National Team
56 Ford Fiesta Rally3 RC3   +43'19.1 13.5
43
J. Martínez Jorge Martínez
A. Alvarez Alberto Alvarez
34 Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo RC2   +46'08.8 2'49.7
44 Italy L. Cobbe Luciano Cobbe
R. Mometti Roberto Mometti
45 Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo RC2   +46'39.3 30.5
45
E. Kelly Eamonn Kelly
C. Mohan Conor Mohan Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy
57 Ford Fiesta Rally3 RC3   +1:03'49.0 17'09.7

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