Thierry Neuville leads first stage in Estonia as Tanak dominates times

Thierry Neuville leads first stage in Estonia as Tanak dominates times

Thierry Neuville took the lead in the Rally Estonia as Ott Tanak recovered and successfully completed all of the stages on Friday morning.

Thierry Neuville took the lead of the Rally Estonia on the opening stage in the morning of Friday. The 15-mile Peipsiääre stage, which was more tricky than many to follow, has given the Hyundai driver a lead of 3.2 seconds over Toyota’s Kalle Rovanperä.

Hyundai driver Neuville, who started the day in fourth place overall, showcased jaw-dropping speed on the treacherous gravel roads to jump into a 6.8-second lead over Kalle Rovanpera who is the championship leader.

Rovanperä could be pleased with his effort, losing just 4.1s to Neuville, despite knowing that he would be losing time by starting first on the road. Considering that the Toyota driver had to open the loose gravel portions, Rovanpera produced a remarkable damage-limitation drive.

Tanak who yesterday had a five-minute engine change penalty has so far managed to win all four of the rally’s stages so far.

Esapekka Lappi and Elfyn Evans, who were co-overnight leaders, dropped to third and fourth place, respectively. Lappi’s Hyundai, which had a lack of power following a challenging jump landing, was 5.5 seconds slower than teammate Neuville’s. He currently trails Neuville by 4.5 seconds overall.

Evans, who was 2.3 seconds slower than his teammate, apologized for “a couple of small mistakes” and pointed to the car’s missing mirror and some vegetation on his car as proof.

Teemu Suninen’s third Hyundai is in fifth place overall, 7.4 seconds behind Neuville. Suninen, who may have benefited from being the final Rally1 car on the road, finished the stage in fourth place and 4.5 seconds behind Neuville. On his first event back in the top tier, the Finn must adjust to Rally1 equipment.

Takamoto Katsuta finished sixth overall after he lost time after a junction overshoot, as M-Sport’s Pierre-Louis Loubet finished seventh with Oliver Solberg leading WRC2 in eighth overall.

Tanak put on a remarkable push to win the morning’s first stage, Peipsiaare, the longest of the rally, fired up by yesterday’s setback. Despite starting third on the road, the Ford driver was propelled by large fans to win the second stage of the race with a time 5.0s quicker than Neuville.

Regardless of Neuville’s unsatisfactory pace, he managed to overtake Rovanpera, the rally’s road sweeper by 3.2 seconds. Rovanpera struggled to clear the gravel from the roadways.

Tanak set the pace for stage three (Mustvee 1,17.09km), extending his 100% stage-winning streak. This time, the difference was smaller because the Estonian reached at the stage’s finish 1.8 seconds before Neuville, who extended his rally advantage over Rovanpera.

Starting first on the road, Rovanpera struggled to gain traction on the slick surface. Despite this, the Finn finished only 2.5 seconds behind pacesetter Tanak.

On the road segment ahead of the stage, Lappi was unable to reset the hybrid unit which put him at a substantial pace disadvantage. Additionally, the Hyundai driver bumped a bale during his run that was 7.7 seconds off the outright pace. This happened as a consequence of a “misunderstanding” that caused him to start the stage later than planned.

Tanak capped off his morning dominance by defeating Neuville by 1.6 seconds in the blazing-fast stage four (Raanitsa 1 21.45km), despite briefly losing engine power in his run. Neuville was also fortunate after a spectacular fall brought him dangerously close to a telegraph pole.

In challenging loose circumstances, Rovanpera kept up his pace to record the third-fastest time, 4.5 seconds behind Tanak. Lappi was only a second slower than Suninen and Evans, who were both struggling with the balance of their GR Yaris but faster.

To finish Friday’s leg, four more stages are awaiting the field this afternoon.

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