WRC - Rovanperä leads Rally Estonia after dramatic morning | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile

WRC - Rovanperä leads Rally Estonia after dramatic morning


2021 Rally Estonia - Friday morning

2021 WRC - Rally Estonia - K. Rovanperä/J. Halttunen (DPPI Media / N. Katikis)

Kalle Rovanperä held a slender lead over Craig Breen at Rally Estonia following an action-packed Friday morning that included the shock retirement of pre-event favourite Ott Tänak.

Twenty-year-old Rovanperä, who led after Thursday night’s short curtain-raising speed test, won three of the four fast and furious gravel special stages in his Toyota Yaris.

Breen was hot on the Finn’s heels in a Hyundai i20. The Irishman was second on all four stages to lie just 4.8sec adrift as this seventh round of the FIA World Rally Championship paused for breath at mid-leg service in Tartu.

In temperatures approaching 30°C, Breen kept cool after twice being inadvertently delayed by a struggling Gus Greensmith. The time lost was later removed by rally officials and Breen briefly sneaked into a one second lead before Rovanperä hit back in the final two tests.

Home hero Tänak won Friday’s opening Arula test to relegate Rovanperä from top spot but plunged to seventh after a front right puncture in the following Otepää. Worse was to follow in the next Kanepi stage.

“I went wide in a corner and basically I went on the field and during that I knocked off two tyres. I had another two punctures and obviously we had no spares anymore and it was not possible to continue,” explained Tänak, who began the loop with just one spare wheel.

Championship leader Sébastien Ogier was best of the rest. The Frenchman was 33.5sec adrift in third in his Yaris, but content after minimising the handicap of opening the soft and sandy roads, with grip for the early starters reduced compared to those further back.

Ogier had 6.8sec in hand over Thierry Neuville’s i20 in fourth. The Belgian fell back from third with a rear left puncture in Kanepi, but still had 6.6sec in hand over Elfyn Evans, who twice overshot junctions in Otepää in his Yaris.

Pierre-Louis Loubet was the final top-flight driver in sixth. The Corsican was cautious after a torrid opening half of the season in his i20, but capitalised on the problems of others.

Takamoto Katsuta retired his Yaris from third after co-driver Dan Barritt suffered a back injury after a heavy landing over a Kanepi jump. Greensmith exited after stopping several times with a technical issue which affected the power from his Ford Fiesta’s engine.

Team-mate Teemu Suninen was sixth but a rear left puncture and a turbo boost problem demoted the Finn to 14th.

FIA WRC3 leader and reigning European champion Alexey Lukyanuk held seventh in a Škoda Fabia, 11.1sec ahead of FIA WRC2 pace-setter Mads Østberg,, who was hampered by a damaged suspension arm after a jump. Andreas Mikkelsen and Emil Lindholm completed the leaderboard.