Slow puncture for Neuville gives Rovanperä big Estonia lead

The world champion is now over 20 seconds clear out front

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Kalle Rovanperä’s Rally Estonia lead has ballooned to over 20 seconds after Thierry Neuville suffered a slow puncture on SS12.

On the preceding stage, the second pass through Mäeküla, Rovanperä was fastest by 1.9s over Hyundai’s Esapekka Lappi who brought his gap to Elfyn Evans in the fight for third back to over a second.

Evans only dropped 0.5s to Lappi through SS11, the halfway point of the rally, while Neuville was 0.4s slower than Evans and 2.8s off Rovanperä’s pace which meant the gap between the top two grew to 9.4s.

Lappi said it was “not my day” despite being second fastest, and Neuville’s review of his driving was that he was clean, but not necessarily fast as he was always prioritising clean exits but conceded he should maybe “attack more and be sideways more often”.

Rovanperä did not want to admit he was pushing until it came to SS12, where he had a winning margin of 4.3s over Lappi.

“I was pushing like hell the whole stage, to be honest,” said Rovanperä afterwards, unaware that he had more than doubled his lead due to Neuville’s misfortune.

It was a slow puncture on the front-right tire that potentially ended Neuville’s victory hopes. “I did 3.5 kilometers with a puncture”, which was “not easy, but we didn’t lose too much”. He was right, as he only lost 6.6s to Lappi and remains 6.7s ahead of him.

Lappi is 1.9s ahead of Evans, meaning the gap is the same as it was at the end of Friday.

Teemu Suninen is fifth ahead of Pierre-Louis Loubet, Takamoto Katsuta and Ott Tänak who has climbed into eighth ahead of WRC2 leader Andreas Mikkelsen.