Rovanperä loses two minutes as wheel issue continues

He was late to start SS10 after needing to change tires around on the road section

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Kalle Rovanperä has leaked several more minutes and is now out of the points on Rally Japan after starting SS10 late, losing one minute once he got underway.

Rovanperä began Saturday in third position overall, just over five seconds shy of the lead. But his morning unravelled extremely early on as he ran wide on the opening test of the day, clipping a rockface and puncturing his front-right tire.

The Toyota came off well in its battle with the scenery considering the size of the impact, but it’s made Saturday morning a complicated one for the world champion.

He arrived to the end of the second stage of the three-test loop with a very damaged rim and performed work on the road section to ready his GR Yaris Rally1 for the final stage of the morning.

Due into SS10 at 9.18am local time, Rovanperä didn’t start until 9.27am – checking into the time control six minutes late and earning a one minute time penalty.

He had fitted the tire he punctured on the day’s first test to the rear of his Toyota to not further damage the wheel he kerbed on SS9.

Despite Rovanperä’s dramas, the short, sharp 4.3-mile Shinshiro City concluded Saturday morning’s loop and was rather different in character compared to the tight, technical tests that succeeded it.

“It’s like going up the M50,” smiled first on the road Craig Breen.

“It’s very different to everything we’ve had in the rally so far, quite difficult to make pacenotes for on the recce when we’d been used to roads that would fit just the width of a car and then you can fit five or six of them.”

That difference was pertinent for Neuville who felt his pacenotes from the recce weren’t ideal for the stage at rally speeds.

“We had to do the recce at 60kph which is very, very slow and very unusual and my pacenotes are related to speed, so at 60kph it’s very dangerous for me to make pacenotes,” he said.

Neuville lost 1.8 seconds to Evans in their fight for the lead, so heads to service 6.5s in arrears.

Evans said: “Yeah not too bad really. It’s always hard on a rally like this but it seems to be going OK, so let’s see what the afternoon brings.”

Takamoto Katsuta’s speed was strong on SS10, dropping just 0.3s to Sébastien Ogier who has consistently been near the pointy end of the timesheets on Saturday morning.

But he was still beaten by Ott Tänak up ahead of him by 0.4s, keeping the gap between the third and fourth placed drivers stable at 18.7s.

“It was a very racy stage so we stiffened the car a bit and it was a big improvement,” said Tänak.

Despite the short length of SS10, Ogier gnawed another 4.7s out of his deficit to fifth-placed Gus Greensmith to lurk just 5.7s behind heading into the afternoon.


But given he crashed out on Saturday morning’s final test on both of the previous two rallies – Spain and New Zealand – there must have been a sense of relief aboard Greensmith’s Puma.

However, it wasn’t the rallying that was really on his mind at all, but the resemblance Shinshiro City had to a Fast & Furious film.

“It reminded me a lot of the stages from Tokyo Drift the film where he’s trying to learn how to drift,” said Greensmith.

Ogier meanwhile declared himself happy with his morning. He said: “We keep driving fast, trying to enjoy and it’s been a good morning.”

The stage was subsequently red flagged after all of the Rally1 cars had completed the test as a result of drain covers becoming loose.