Rovanperä snatches Croatia Rally win from Tänak

The WRC points leader's second win in a row came against the odds and from behind


Kalle Rovanperä stole victory away from Ott Tänak on the final stage of Croatia Rally to win a second straight rally and extend his championship lead.

The rally was Rovanperä’s to lose at the end of Friday, and by SS9 he held a 1m23.3s lead. But the majority of that advantage was wiped out when he picked up a puncture on SS11.

From there, Tänak began to eat into Rovanpera’s lead, although he did recover some ground on Saturday’s final stage to go into the last day with a 19.9s advantage.

He then extended the lead by a further 11.2s on SS17 before Tänak fought back in brilliant fashion on a soaking SS19 to clinch the lead with a canny tire choice for his Hyundai.

But Tänak couldn’t match Rovanperä’s Toyota on the final test, ending up 4.3s behind at the finish.

Rovanperä was also fastest through the powerstage, meaning he picks up an additional five points, extending his championship lead to 76 points, with a gap of 29 to closest rival Thierry Neuville.


“I didn’t take any risks, but Kalle obviously did a good drive,” said Tänak. “We were fighting for the win, but only because of clever decisions and tire choices.”

Neuville had an eventful rally, picking up penalties for speeding and being late to service, suffering with an alternator failure and getting punctures too. But things got even more eventful on the final stage.

He slid down into a bank on the powerstage, crashing into a ditch and momentarily the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 went right up onto its side, but despite the damage caused he managed to get his car turned around and going again.

With two punctures he still managed to make it to the end of the 8.75-mile stage, and although he lost 46.1s to M-Sport’s Craig Breen, he was still able to cling on to third position by 46.3s.

“At the end, I got caught under braking with the hard tires and we just went straight on. Luckily we got away with it,” Neuville said when asked about his crash on the powerstage.


“We were very unlucky with a couple of the small issues we had over the weekend, but at the end, the luck was on our side. Everything is good.”

Elfyn Evans finished fifth, scoring his first points of the season.

Evans was desperate for a strong result in Croatia, but things didn’t go to plan at the beginning, with the Toyota driver picking up multiple punctures on the opening day.

But he managed to avoid any major issues on Saturday and Sunday, and was third on the powerstage to finish with 13 points.

His team-mate Takamoto Katsuta came home sixth. He struggled for confidence all weekend, but drove a measured rally, not risking anything when he suffered with a lack of grip. In the end he was 4m22.5s adrift of Evans.

Yohan Rossel

Yohan Rossel secured his maiden WRC2 victory on the final stage of the rally, while also ending up seventh overall.

Rossel led the class from start to finish, never putting a foot wrong despite the tough conditions throughout the weekend. He ended up beating runner-up Kajetan Kajetanowicz by a minute, with Emil Lindholm in third and a further 10.7 seconds back after going fifth fastest overall – earning himself a WRC powerstage point – on SS20.

“After Monte, I worked very hard with the team and this win is for them,” said WRC2 victor Rossel.

“I think the most important thing was to win here. The target is of course to try and win the championship, but there’s still a long way to go. I think it’s perfect to win our second event.”

Another Finn snatched a final stage win, as Lauri Joona won WRC3 in the final mile of the rally.

Sami Pajari and Robert Virves had disputed class honors through most of the rally, until Pajari crashed on the final day. That elevated Virves into a safe lead, but he then checked into the service prior to the powerstage too early and copped a four-minute penalty.

Victory was then Joona’s to lose as he got promoted to first place, and Virves pushed until an issue in the final split that dropped him 50s and meant he finished 4m07.7s behind the winner.

SS20 results

1 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) 9m01.885s
2 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +5.669s
3 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +21.858s
4 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (M-Sport Ford) +22.166s
5 Emil Lindholm/Reeta Hämäläinen (Škoda) +25.742s
6 Stéphane Lefebvre/Andy Malfoy (Citroën) +28.728s
7 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (M-Sport Ford) +32.037s
8 Grégoire Muster/Louis Louka (Hyundai) +35.056s
9 Yohan Rossel/Valentin Sarreaud (Citroën) +36.008s
10 Jari Huttunen/Mikko Lukka (M-Sport Ford) +36.724s

Final positions after SS20

1 Rovanperä/Halttunen (Toyota) 2h48m21.5s
2 Tänak/Järveoja (Hyundai) +4.3s
3 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +2m21.0s
4 Breen/Nagle (M-Sport Ford) +3m07.3s
5 Evans/Martin (Toyota) +3m46.0s
6 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +8m08.5s
7 Rossel/Sarreaud (Citroën) +10m01.0s
8 Kajetan Kajetanowicz/Maciej Szczepaniak (Škoda) +11m01.2s
9 Lindholm/Hämäläinen (Škoda) +11m11.9s
10 Nikolay Gryazin/Konstantin Aleksandrov (Škoda) +11m48.5s

Championship standings
1 Rovanperä 76   2 Neuville 47   3 Breen 30   4 Sébastien Loeb 27   5 Tänak 27   6 Katsuta 26   7 Greensmith 20   8 Sébastien Ogier 19   9 Evans 17   10 Esapekka Lappi 15

Manufacturers’ standings
1 Toyota Gazoo Racing 126   2 Hyundai Motorsport 84   3 M-Sport Ford 80   4 TGR Next Generation 30

WRC2 standings
1 Andreas Mikkelsen 51   2 Rossel 38   3 Gryazin 27   4 Lindholm 23   5 Erik Cais 22   6 Ole Christian Veiby 18   7 Kajetanowicz 18   8 Huttunen 16   9 Chris Ingram 16   10 Munster 15