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WRC - Exit for Evans means it’s advantage Rovanperä

  • gb

2023 Central European Rally - Saturday afternoon

Kalle Rovanperä took a major step towards claiming back-to-back FIA World Rally Championship titles* after his team-mate Elfyn Evans crashed out of the Central European Rally’s second full day.

While championship leader Rovanperä had been all but untouchable on Thursday, an off on the second of two stages in Austria this morning resulted in the Finn’s lead over Thierry Neuville being almost halved when he went off the road.

But Rovanperä’s moment proved highly insignificant in comparison to the dramatic exit of his Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid-driving colleague Evans, who crashed from third overall on the following Mühltal test.

The Welshman had been the only remaining contender for this year’s drivers’ championship crown but he misjudged a slippery right-hander and slid into a barn door. 

Unable to continue today, Evans’ retirement means that a drama-free finish will all but guarantee Rovanperä the title come Sunday. The 23-year-old dialled back his speed as a result, which gave Neuville the opportunity to claim an 11.1-second lead going into service in Passau aboard his Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid.

“I knew that Elfyn was off, so why would I risk anything anymore?” Rovanperä said. “It’s a real shame for Elfyn and Scott [Martin, co-driver]. They put on a good fight and it would have been really tricky for us to keep pushing.”

“Being the last car on the road was really tricky, it was a big mess out there. Now the goal is a bit different and we will just try to finish with some good points," he added. 

Ott Tänak climbed to third as a result of Evans’ exit, trailing Rovanperä by a little more than one minute in an M-Sport Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid. A similar distance behind him was eight-time WRC champion Sébastien Ogier, who leapfrogged Toyota team-mate Takamoto Katsuta as the Japanese driver struggled to find confidence.

Emil Lindholm continues to lead FIA WRC with second-placed Nicolas Ciamin 1.3s ahead of fellow FIA WRC2 Challenger contender Erik Cais. Filip Kohn is currently unchallenged in FIA WRC3 after problems for his rivals, Fabio Schwarz and Martin Ravenščak. Armin Kremer leads the FIA WRC Masters’ Cup by almost three minutes.

Following service at the Messepark in Passau, the repeat of the 15.72-kilometre Schärdinger Innviertel test, SS12, is due to get under way at 15:15 CET.

*Subject to confirmation of the results by the FIA