Rovanperä leads Croatia Rally into final day

A solid stage win capped off a Saturday where the leader was in control, had a puncture, then fended off Hyundai


Kalle Rovanperä set a blistering time to win the final stage of Saturday on Croatia Rally, extending his rally lead to 19.9 seconds.

Once again, it was Rovanperä’s team-mate Esapekka Lappi who was the early pacesetter having been first on the road, with neither Ott Tänak or Thierry Neuville able to match his effort.

But Rovanperä stepped it up a gear on his run to set a time of 4m39.4s on the Vinski Vrh – Duga Resa test, 5.1s faster than Tänak, and at the end of the stage he was in a bullish mood.

“This is my reply! It was a good stage – full speed!” said the Toyota driver after going fastest.

Neuville had yet another top-three stage time, 3.7s shy of Rovanperä’s pace. Crucially, he was a full second quicker than M-Sport’s Craig Breen, reducing his gap to the third-placed man down to 4.9s

Elfyn Evans will go into the final day of the rally in fifth, after another solid stage. He’s still over two minutes down on the rally lead, but he’s now put himself into damage limitation mode to ensure he scores some points this weekend.

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“It’s been okay. It was a pretty good morning, but the afternoon was more difficult in places,” said Evans.

“I was on the careful side where it got extremely muddy, but at least we can see the time. We just need to secure the points really.”

Takamoto Katsuta was eight seconds shy of Rovanperä’s effort, ending up ninth fastest in his Toyota, and he goes into tomorrow in sixth position, three-and-a-half minutes behind Evans.

Pierre-Louis Loubet will be left wondering what could have been had he not crashed out on Friday’s opening stage. He set another strong time on Saturday’s final test, and he was left feeling happy with his first full day in a Rally1 car.

“I tried in this one, but I think in two tight corners it was not clean enough to get the speed for the long straight,” he said. “For my first proper day in the car I am really happy.”


In WRC2, Yohan Rossel will go into the final day with a comfortable lead. He again lost time to Nikolay Gryazin, but he still retains a 35.1s lead and sits seventh overall.

“It’s a great day. I think the gap is similar to yesterday, and that’s important,” Rossel said at the end of SS16.

“I am happy and the car is very great. I was a little bit cautious on the second loop, but it’s OK.”

Škoda driver Kajetan Kajetanowicz was the best WRC2 driver on Vinski Vrh – Duga Resa, setting the 10th fastest time, and he goes into the evening third in class and ninth overall, while Emil Lindholm rounds out the rally top 10 in his Ford Fiesta Rally2.

Sami Pajari leads WRC3 in 14th place, and his super close fight with Robert Virves came to an end on SS16 as his fellow Ford Fiesta Rally3 driver dropped 47s. He had been just 2.1s behind Pajari going into the stage, and they had been 0.5s apart the stage before that. Lauri Joona is a further 23.3s back in the WRC3 podium battle, and one place behind M-Sport’s Gus Greensmith in the overall classification.

SS16 results

1 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) 4m36.0s
2 Esapekka Lappi/Jenne Ferm (Toyota) +3.4s
3 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +3.7s
4 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (M-Sport Ford) +4.7s
5 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +5.1s
6 Pierre-Louis Loubet/Vincent Landais (M-Sport Ford) +5.2s
7 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +5.3s
8 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (M-Sport Ford) +7.0s
9 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +8.0s
10 Kajetan Kajetanowicz/Maciej Szczepaniak (Škoda) +21.6s

Leading positions after SS16

1 Rovanperä/Halttunen (Toyota) 2h14m54.5s
2 Tänak/Järveoja (Hyundai) +19.9s
3 Breen/Nagle (M-Sport Ford) +1m13.4s
4 Neuville/Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +1m18.3s
5 Evans/Martin (Toyota) +2m08.2s
6 Katsuta/Johnston (Toyota) +5m47.7s
7 Yohan Rossel/Valentin Sarreaud (Citroën) +8m24.6s
8 Nikolay Gryazin/Konstantin Aleksandrov (Škoda) +8m59.7s
9 Kajetanowicz/Szczepaniak (Škoda) +9m15.5s
10 Emil Lindholm/Reeta Hämäläinen (Škoda) +9m49.3s