Kalle Rovanperä has crashed out of the lead of Ypres Rally, his first World Rally Championship crash in almost a year.
Rovanperä had set a stunning time on the opening stage, 2.5 seconds quicker than team-mate Elfyn Evans, but immediately at the start of SS2 things were more fraught.
The world championship leaders were due to start the stage at 11.08am local time but didn’t start until 11.12am.
There appeared to be some sort of confusion as co-driver Jonne Halttunen was frustrated and Rovanperä shaking his head.
Once onto the stage, Rovanperä made it through the first two splits but got it all wrong through a quick left-hander, running wide and into a drainage ditch which pitched the Toyota into a series of rolls.
Both Rovanperä and Halttunen escaped the car but will be going no further.
The exit of this year’s class act opened the door for all of his rivals who can now sniff a clear chance of victory.
Evans dropped 0.3s to local driver Thierry Neuville, but that was more than enough for him to move into the lead of the rally as he beat Tänak by 0.7s.
“I feel there is more to come,” Evans said, who leads the rally by 1.2s, “just generally a bit on the careful side but OK.”
Tänak did well to only lose a second to Neuville, considering he was compromised on SS2.
“We had a puncture last 6km,” he revealed, “so we were managing it through.”
Neuville’s fastest time has allowed him to move into the podium places though, even if he did “not feel comfortable at all at the moment”.
“The stage is quite bumpy and I have no confidence. I had a clean run through without pushing and we need to work on the car,” he said.
Neuville profited from running earlier on the road though, as the rain began to spit for the later runners.
Craig Breen described his stage as “fairly atrocious” as the rain began to fall and the wipers occasionally jammed on his windshield, while Esapekka Lappi lost 11.7s to Neuville to fall to 6.3s behind him in fourth.
“I was too slow, too safe mainly everywhere,” Lappi rued. “The time is not great, but that’s how it is.”
Although he didn’t comment on it, Lappi’s car was spotted completing the stage with the rear-right corner damaged and carrying some barbed wire with it.
Lappi is now just 2.1s ahead of Adrien Fourmaux who, despite losing position to Neuville, remains in fifth place due to Rovanperä’s crash.
Breen may not be happy with his morning but he is now up to sixth place, 4.2s up on team-mate Gus Greensmith who has 8.7s in hand over Takamoto Katsuta.
Katsuta went straight on at a junction but only lost a few seconds as he reversed and continued on his way.
His time was the slowest of the Rally1 runners, one second shy of Oliver Solberg’s benchmark, leaving Solberg just half a second behind Katsuta overall.