World Rally Championship leader Kalle Rovanperä has topped the shakedown stage for Rally Estonia, as home favorite Ott Tänak ran into engine trouble.
Rovanperä currently leads the championship by 41 points over Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans and hasn’t been defeated in Estonia since he won his first WRC rally in 2021.
Although it was M-Sport driver Tänak who was initially fastest by 1.1 seconds, it was Rovanperä who soared to the top of the timesheets after the second pass with a time of 2m00.0s on the 2.5-mile Kastre shakedown, and he then became the only driver to break the two-minute barrier on his third run.
The world champion then went faster again to set a benchmark time of 1m58.8s – 1.2s clear of the rest which were headed by Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville.
Esapekka Lappi got within half a second of his team-mate to set the third fastest time, three tenths up on Takamoto Katsuta and four tenths clear of Elfyn Evans. Teemu Suninen was sixth fastest on his first WRC event in a Rally1 car.
Tänak wound up seventh fastest – equal with his team-mate Pierre-Louis Loubet – but in a great deal of trouble as he pulled up to the stop control of his first run of shakedown reporting that the engine had “broken”.
😦 Drama early on for Tänak!
— DirtFish (@DirtFishRally) July 20, 2023
His Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid had to be towed back to the service park in Tartu where the M-Sport team set about investigating the problem.
“We seemed to have some trouble, but what exactly we don’t know yet,” Tänak said.
“We will find out [if there are any further issues for the weekend].”
In WRC2, Oliver Solberg set the pace in his Toksport Škoda, despite feeling a bit “sick”.
Gus Greensmith was the second fastest Rally2 car although the next-quickest driver registered for WRC2 points was the similar Fabia RS Rally2 of Sami Pajari.
WRC2 champion Emil Lindholm was fifth quickest (but fastest on the first pass) on his first-ever run against the clock as a Hyundai driver.