Rovanperä grows Rally Estonia lead on Saturday morning

The Toyota driver pulled away as home hero Tänak made it into the top 10


Kalle Rovanperä has extended his Rally Estonia lead by 3.6 seconds over Thierry Neuville on the opening two stages of Saturday.

The Toyota driver won SS9 – the first pass of Mäeküla – by 1.6s over Hyundai’s Neuville who felt like he needed to improve his pacenotes.

Rovanperä’s team-mate Elfyn Evans was four seconds back in third, and by taking 0.6s out of Esapekka Lappi he closed to within 1.3s of the final podium place.

The most noteworthy thing to happen on SS9 was M-Sport Ford’s Ott Tänak braking very late into a slow left-hander early in the stage as the first on the road and shifting all of the loose past the apex of the corner. That led to a lot of the drivers after him sliding helplessly into the corner, but some realized they could take to the grass on the outside as they approached the corner and get turned in earlier to avoid sliding on the gravel.

Tänak had a fruitful stage though, taking 15.8s out of WRC2 runner Sami Pajari to get within 6.2s of the top 10 overall.

The narrative of SS10 (Otepää) was not much different, with Rovanperä winning the stage by two seconds over Neuville to grow his lead over him to 6.6s, Evans outpacing Lappi by 0.6s to get within 0.7s of the Hyundai driver and Tänak continuing to recover ground lost from his five-minute penalty as he overtook not just Pajari but also Toksport’s Škoda Fabia RS Rally2-driving Gus Greensmith to move into ninth place.

There is now eight seconds between Tänak and eighth-placed Andreas Mikkelsen who is the lead WRC2 runner.

While the fans enjoyed the big jumps on Otepää, Neuville did not really warm to them. He made a huge leap on one of the early artificial ones but then tried to cut the next, and after the stage admitted he kept hesitating and did not know if he should more risk on the jumps or not.