In a sense, everybody deserves a solid score in Rally Estonia as, for the first time in over four years, every single manufacturer driver made it to the end of the event without retiring.
But that’s not how Colin Clark’s driver ratings work.
As ever, he’s casted his rule over the Rally1 field based on last weekend’s performances, and here are his thoughts.
Kalle Rovanperä 10/10
Rally Estonia result: 1st
This was the ultimate demonstration of aggressive, controlled and consistently quick driving. Rovanperä is redefining excellence in rallying and, frighteningly, he continues to get better and better.
To lead at the end of day one from first on the road was impressive enough, but to then completely dominate his title pretenders in such a crushingly effortless way was nothing short of sublime. And for those hoping to best the boy wonder – utterly demoralising.
Rovanperä’s 13 stage wins in a row matched the feat that Loeb achieved in Germany in 2008, and to do that at 22 years old is astonishing.
This was a result that was crafted from the harmonious coming together of a number of factors, and maybe the stars won’t align so often to allow a repeat of such incredible dominance. But if and when they do, the others might as well just stay at home because in these circumstances, with Kalle in this form, he is totally unbeatable.
Elfyn Evans 6/10
Rally Estonia result: 4th
I was hoping for a little more from Elfyn on this one. This is his type of surface, his type of rally and as a minimum, he really should have been targeting a podium finish.
But ultimately, the pace just wasn’t there last week.
Credit to Elfyn for refusing to push beyond where he felt comfortable and bringing home a decent points scoring finish, but if he wants to continue to be considered a title contender, these finishes need to be two or three places higher.
Takamoto Katsuta 4/10
Rally Estonia result: 7th
Another driver who really should have done better last week.
We’ve seen Taka setting top stage times in the past in Estonia so he knows how to go quick on this event.
But he never really did this year.
At this level the margins between success and failure are minimal and it very often comes down to confidence and mental fortitude.
I don’t think it’s too extreme to say that Taka-san right now is suffering from a crisis in confidence that he needs to shake off before he actually makes steps forward towards the form and pace we all know is there.
Thierry Neuville 9/10
Rally Estonia result: 2nd
This was exactly the performance and the result that Neuville needed after the catastrophic goings on in Kenya.
Last year in Estonia Thierry finished close to four minutes behind the winning time and looked at times lost – but what a difference 12 months and a Finnish team-mate makes!
This kind of rally has been Neuville’s nemesis over the years but dare we hope to believe that this result might put an end to his fast gravel mediocrity?
Well let’s wait until after Finland to make that judgement, but for sure this was as composed and as confident as I’ve seen Thierry on this event yet.
Esapekka Lappi 8/10
Rally Estonia result: 3rd
Really unfortunate that Lappi suffered a hybrid failure on the opening morning, but once again Esapekka showed his worth to the team in Estonia.
Actually his worth to the team was probably best demonstrated on the Hyundai test roads around Ouninpohja in the weeks preceding this rally where Lappi’s experience and ability directed the development of the i20 N Rally1 in quite clearly the right direction.
In terms of pace, Lappi needs to find a little more if he is to challenge for the win in Finland. I think that is entirely possible though. His experience, his confidence and his ability have never been higher and Lappi is a driver very much in the ascendency.
Teemu Suninen 8/10
Rally Estonia result: 5th
The last time I talked to Teemu in Estonia was two years ago – and he left my interview a teary-eyed, broken man. With that in mind, this was one hell of a comeback.
Let’s not underestimate the pressure that Suninen was facing here. A lot of folk were saying he’d had his chance at the very top level and had squandered it. Well this was his chance to prove them wrong and he did just that with some style, finesse and bucket loads of composure.
I for one couldn’t have been happier – he’s one of the nicest guys in the service park with a talent and a potential that is preciously close to being unlocked.
Consolidation and validation is the key to success though – let’s hope he can do exactly that in Finland.
Ott Tänak 8/10
Rally Estonia result: 8th
The cruelest of events for the home favorite; Tänak’s chance of the win was gone before the event had even started.
That five-minute engine swap penalty deprived everyone of what could have been an epic battle for the win. You know what, the penalty was applied entirely correctly and according to the rules. But as a sport, we can’t afford for these cataclysmically disappointing penalties to destroy the sporting spectacle that so many had so eagerly looked forward to. Sort this out FIA – but that’s a column for anther day.
Tänak was a man with a point to prove on day one and he drove as well – as committed and focussed as we’ve seen him since that impressive win in Sweden.
That day one pace was a massive positive for Tänak and M-Sport and if they can find that groove again in Finland, Ott has every chance of repeating last year’s sensational win there.
Pierre-Louis Loubet 6/10
Rally Estonia result: 6th
Another event that went more or less to plan for the ever improving M-Sport youngster.
The number one objective is to make no mistakes and Loubet once again achieved that. Encouragingly, when conditions suited and the confidence was there, so was the pace.
Beating Katsuta in the powerstage to claim sixth overall was a highlight of the weekend.