Ott Tänak dominated the World Rally Championship’s latest event after winning the Velká Chuchle Prague superspecial, the opening stage of the Central European Rally.
Ford Puma Rally1 driver from M-Sport, Ott Tanak, fresh off his victory in Rally Chile, took the full advantage of the soft tires on his car to clock a time 0.7 seconds quicker than Toyota’s Sébastien Ogier over the 1.6-mile mixed-surface stage.
Championship contenders Kalle Rovanperä and Elfyn Evans were roughly 4s off the pace, finishing ninth and 10th fastest through the stage as the quartet of Toyotas ran on wet-weather tyres in the dry conditions, likely anticipating some precipitation ahead of the day’s second stage.
Eight-time world champion Ogier outperformed Thierry Neuville’s Hyundai i20 N, which ran on a single soft tyre and three wet tyres, by 0.3 seconds. Ogier was making his Toyota comeback for the first time since the Acropolis Rally in early September.
Neuville’s teammates Teemu Suninen and Esapekka Lappi finished the stage in fourth and fifth place, respectively. Lappi finished last among the Rally1 drivers in the early classification despite being 1.6 seconds slower than Tänak and subject to an extra 10 seconds penalty for a jumping start.
As a result, Suninen finished fourth overall, 2.4 seconds behind Tänak but 0.4 seconds ahead of Grégoire Munster who finished fifth. Sixth overall was Takamoto Katsuta in the second-fastest Toyota, 3.4 seconds behind Tänak.
WRC2 leader Andreas Mikkelsen, who finished the stage quicker than three Rally1 cars finished seventh overall, 0.4 seconds behind Katsuta.
With the exception of local WRC2 driver Erik Cais, Katsuta outperformed Rovanperä and Evans in terms of speed during the stage. A late alteration to the running order seemed to have upset the two drivers.
Among the Rally1 drivers, Pierre-Louis Loubet was the slowest during his final season appearance. His Puma finished 10th overall 4.4 seconds behind teammate Tänak.
The crews will now proceed to the 5.5-mile Klatovy stage before making their overnight stop in Germany.