Rovanperä stretches Estonia lead with stunning SS5 win

The Toyota driver comfortably bettered the rest of the World Rally Cars through Kambja as Katsuta retired


Kalle Rovanperä has put some distance between himself and second-placed Craig Breen at the head of Rally Estonia with an emphatically strong time on the final stage of Friday morning.

Rovanperä’s Toyota led the rally by 2.5 seconds after four stages but rival Breen had been hampered by a myriad of issues caught behind an ailing Gus Greensmith.

But on SS5, when all things were fair, Rovanperä stamped down his authority on the event to beat Breen by 4.6s – extending his lead to 7.1s overall before Breen’s SS4 time was adjusted and it came back down to 4.8s.

Breen was the only driver to keep tabs with Rovanperä though, as he was 6.2s quicker than third fastest Elfyn Evans.

“That stage I’ve obviously been watching all the others and I was very cautious on a lot of the jumps, try not to land at any funny angles, try not to debead any tires,” Breen explained.


Photo: Hyundai Motorsport

“A clean loop. OK, we’ve had a lot of dramas outside of the car but apart from that everything has been going really nice.”

Takamoto Katsuta had been third overall before the start of SS5 but has retired his Toyota Yaris WRC on the road section before the stage; marking the first retirement for him all season.

That however paved the way clear for Sébastien Ogier to jump up into the podium places despite his handicap of running as the first car on the road.

“I think I did a really good job this morning, I couldn’t really do more,” Ogier said. “But this one was probably the worst of the loop, very, very loose.”

The fight at the front is increasingly becoming a two-horse race though as Ogier has a 33.5s deficit to Rovanperä.



Some of 2020's stages have been stitched together and pulled apart to form Friday's route

Following his puncture on the previous test, Thierry Neuville was unable to make any inroads on third-placed Ogier despite his Hyundai being back to full health.

That annoyed him, although Neuville did report a “small issue” with the power that was only a minor mishap. He lost 0.2s to Ogier and 0.4s to Evans who’s fifth overall.

“I should have been faster than them with the cleaning, but I can’t [manage],” said Neuville. “I wasn’t careful.”

Evans also felt he “probably should’ve done a little better if possible” on SS5 but reported “no drama”.

Pierre-Louis Loubet is now inside the top six in his 2C Competition-run Hyundai as his policy of survival paid off. While plenty of others have found trouble, Loubet has kept his nose clean and made it through the loop unscathed; a much-needed accolade given his torrid 2021 season thus far.

Teemu Suninen dropped over a minute on SS5 as he had to complete the test at a restricted pace due to water pressure issues aboard his M-Sport Ford.


Photo: M-Sport World Rally Team

“Same troubles as Gus is having,” Suninen confirmed at the end of the stage.

He is now down to 14th spot, 3.7s behind Nikolay Gryazin’s Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 which suffered a broken windshield on SS5.

European Rally Champion Alexey Lukyanuk is a superb seventh overall on a one-off WRC appearance, leading the Rally2 class as well as WRC3.

Mads Østberg leads WRC2 and is eighth overall but he wore co-driver Torstein Eriksen’s helmet on SS5 as he was suffering an intercom problem. He also reported a front-right suspension problem on his Citroën so admitted he was “glad” to be heading to service and to have not lost too much time.

Østberg’s category lead stands at 6.2s over Andreas Mikkelsen.

Sami Pajari leads the Junior WRC class after five stages, holding a 14.1s advantage over Martin Koči with Jon Armstrong just another 0.7s behind.

Pajari has been in complete control, winning all five stages thus far to claim an additional five championship points in the process, with points awarded to drivers for winning stages in JWRC.

SS5 times

1 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) 9m39.7s
2 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (Hyundai) +4.6s
3 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +10.8s
4 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota) +11.0s
5 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +11.2s
6 Pierre-Louis Loubet/Florian Haut-Labourdette (Hyundai) +27.5s

Leading positions after SS5

1 Rovanperä/Halttunen 34m37.9s
2 Breen/Nagle +4.8s
3 Ogier/Ingrassia +33.5s
4 Neuville/Wydaeghe +40.3s
5 Evans/Martin +46.9s
6 Loubet/Haut-Labourdette (Hyundai) +1m32.8s
7 Alexey Lukyanuk/Yaroslav Fedorov (Škoda) +1m48.3s
8 Mads Østberg/Torstein Eriksen (Citroën) +1m59.4s
9 Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (Škoda) +2m05.6s
10 Emil Lindholm/Reeta Hämäläinen (Škoda) +2m12.2s