Rovanperä closing on podium, Lappi beats Tänak again

Kalle Rovanperä is just half a second away from third place, while his team-mate is reducing the rally lead

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Kalle Rovanperä has closed in on a Rally Finland podium position after taking half a second out of Elfyn Evans on SS9, while Esapekka Lappi took his second consecutive stage win.

Lappi put together another accomplished drive to beat Ott Tänak by 0.9 seconds and has now reduced the overall rally lead to 5.3s.

“I made less mistakes and I drove better,” said Lappi at the end of the stage.

“I avoided the rocks to be fair, so I could have been even faster if I stayed on the line.

“We are driving very well at the moment.”

But the battle for the final podium position between his two Toyota team-mates, Evans and Rovanperä, is equally exciting.

Evans was three tenths up on Rovanperä in the first split, but he lost time in the final two splits, and finished the test half a second slower than the championship leader.

It means the pair are separated by just half a second going into the final stage of the day.

“I tried. It was a bit more difficult than I was expecting with the lines of the small cars,” said Rovanperä

“In some corners I couldn’t find a clean line and I lost a lot of time going wide on the loose gravel. It’s like this.”

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But while the battle ahead is intensifying, the fight for fifth is beginning to dampen after Craig Breen managed to finish the 7.64-mile Ässämäki test 1.2s faster than Takamoto Katsuta, extending his overall advantage to 1.8s over the Toyota driver.

And Breen even found time to give a glancing wave to a few spectators in the latter part of the stage.

“They had a right good spot!” Breen said when asked about his wave.

“I know what it takes to be fast here and I’m certainly trying everything I know. We’ve gone well here in the past but we’re certainly missing something.”

Thierry Neuville lost yet another 3.7s on the stage, but did crucially make up some time on Katsuta. He’s rooted in seventh, now 46.8s off the lead, while Pierre-Louis Loubet is 5.8s adrift in eighth.

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Gus Greensmith remains ninth, but Adrien Fourmaux had another scare.

The M-Sport driver hit a rock midway through the Ässämäki test, but managed to avoid any major damage to complete the stage, although it did cost him another 8.5s to the leaders.

But SS9 proved to be markedly better for Jari Huttunen. He lost power with an fuel pressure issue on the previous stage, and there were concerns he would be forced to retire.

But he managed to completed the Ässämäki without any major power loss, meaning he’s able to remain in the rally for the time being.

Words:Rob Hansford

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