Rovanpera dominates all nine Saturday stages at Rally Estonia

Rovanpera dominates all nine Saturday stages at Rally Estonia

Kalle Rovanpera enters the last day of the Rally Estonia with a lead of 34.9 seconds after winning every stage on Saturday.

At the Rally Estonia, Kalle Rovanpera put on a flawless performance to win each of the nine World Rally Championship stages on Saturday.

The defending world champion turned a 3.0 second overnight lead over Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville into a 34.9 second lead after putting on his finest performance of the year so far.

During the morning loop, Neuville suffered a slow puncture and lost 6.5 seconds but he was unable to keep up with the Toyota driver’s pace.

The second passes through Elva and Kanepi came before the superspecial, and Rovanperä’s Toyota teammate Elfyn Evans was his closest challenger on Elva.

Esapekka Lappi, Neuville’s Hyundai teammate was somewhat taken aback by the fact that Lappi was a second slower than his adversary for the final podium spot, which allowed him reduce the gap on him for third.

On his Rally1 debut, Teemu Suninen finished the day in a lonely fifth place (+1m41.5s) ahead of Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta (+2m32.5s), M-Sport’s Pierre-Louis Loubet (+2m25.5s) and Ott Tanak, the hometown favorite who improved to eighth place (+5m55.2s) after starting the day in 11th place.

Rovanpera won all four of the morning’s stages and when racing resumed on Saturday afternoon, his unflinching pace showed no signs of fading.

In Stage 13 (Elva 11.73km), the Toyota driver set his sixth consecutive fastest time clocking a timing 3.6 seconds quicker than the next-closest competitor Neuville. The rally’s leader was shocked by the outcome.

Lappi was only 0.2 seconds slower than teammate Neuville, but more importantly the Finn was 0.6 seconds faster than Evans, helping him pull farther ahead in the race for third place overall.

Tanak’s journey through the stage was thwarted away from the battle for the podium positions by a steering rack problem, which he said was caused by an error made at the noon service. The symmetry of his Puma may be fixed before stage 14 (Kanepi, 16.48 kilometers).

With yet another captivating performance, Rovanpera increased his stage winning streak in Kanepi. Rovanpera blew that standard out of the window by 3.8 seconds to increase his rally lead to 27.7 seconds after Neuville had set a benchmark that appeared to be a contender for a stage win.

In the ongoing battle for third place overall, Lappi once more prevailed over Evans to distance himself from the Welshman by 3.7 seconds.

However, Loubet and Katsuta, who were competing for fifth place overall, experienced drama. While Loubet was compelled to finish the stage without hybrid power, Katsuta was able to close the distance between the two competitors to 6.7s. At the ensuing regroup, Loubet was able receive assistance towards regaining his hybrid power.

Even yet, Katsuta’s face was covered in fear as he approached the stage’s finale since his GR Yaris appeared to be trapped in stage mode before it entirely lost power at the time control. Fortunately, he and co-driver Aaron Johnston were able to restart the car after pushing it outside of the control zone.

After disclosing that he had experienced numerous problems, including an intercom glitch that led the Japanese to switch crash helmets with Johnston, Katsuta was back in the charge for stage 15. However, in the second trip through Elva, it was his rally-leading teammate Rovanpera who continued to captivate attention.

Completely at ease in the driver’s seat, Rovanpera went on to win his ninth stage of the competition to establish a 30.9s advantage over Neuville, who was 10s ahead of Lappi in third position.

As the difference shrunk to 2.7s, the third-place swing between Evans and Lappi went back in the former’s favor. Lappi, who had pushed himself to the limit during the test, was able to lose a second to Evans who was able to see how frustrated he was with his performance.

However, Lappi fought back on the subsequent test, Stage 16, with a time 2.9 seconds faster than Evans to widen the gap once more to 5.6 seconds.

The fastest time was recorded by Rovanpera who continued his masterful performance by defeating Neuville, who had a close call with an incline during his run by 2.7 seconds.

Rovanpera won the ultimate super special of the day by 0.9s to completing victory in every round of Saturday’s stages. On the 3.35km short burst, Lappi was Rovanpera’s main rival as the latter added 1.7 seconds to the gap between him and Evans in the race for the top spot.

The crews will face four more stages on Sunday.

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