Rovanperä jumps Neuville into Estonia lead

The world champion asserted his authority, turning a 2.1s deficit into a 2.3s lead


Kalle Rovanperä has overturned Thierry Neuville’s advantage on Rally Estonia, going 4.4s faster through SS6 to move into a 2.3-second lead.

The second run through Mustvee stage had slightly less rain than the previous test, but the increasingly rutted road was proving tough to negotiate. “This was maybe a bit more clear,” admitted the new leader. “But really soft.

“It feels that you’re going really slow because it’s really soft and heavy for the car but, I don’t know, should be the same for everybody I hope.”

Having surprised many with his pace through the morning loop, Neuville was less at ease with the afternoon conditions. “There’s not much we can do at the moment, to be honest,” he offered.

“We have a good rhythm [but] I struggle a bit with understeer on entry. Obviously the ruts bring the car very wide, and it’s conditions I’m not very comfortable in. It’s up and down in the rhythm and I can feel it’s not perfect but that’s what it is at the moment.”

Ten seconds further back, the battle for third continues to rage between Elfyn Evans and Esapekka Lappi, who set the same time through the stage, leaving them separated by exactly one second.

Evans lost further ground to the sister Toyota GR Yaris of Rovanperä, going 4s slower through the stage, but marginally closed on Neuville by 0.4s. “It was really quite rutted,” he said. “I missed a few of them – it’s difficult to get the car turned in.

On Rovanperä’s performance, Evans added: “He’s had a good run there, for sure, because it didn’t feel that bad, but for sure there was time to make up.”

Lappi appeared less happy than he was after the previous stage, simply saying: “It’s OK, no mistakes, no drama, all good.”

Ott Tänak was second fastest through the stage, 3.5s slower than Rovanperä, despite a couple of wild moments, including one through the narrow tree-lined section. “Don’t call them slides, they are surprises,” he said at stage-end. “We have them happen quite often so it’s nothing new.” He remains nearly five minutes off the lead.

As the last Rally1 driver in the running order, the third Hyundai of Teemu Suninen faced more rain through the stage. He dropped around another 7s to each of his Hyundai team-mates but strengthened his position in fifth overall, 18s clear of sixth-placed Pierre-Louis Loubet.

“It started to rain from the beginning,” said Suninen, “but not badly. I was struggling with the ruts – I lost a few times the front.”

M-Sport driver Loubet pulled out another 1.1s over Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta, extending the gap to 8.4s, as the pair contest sixth overall.