Kalle Rovanperä was already on course for a dominant victory prior to the final stage of Rally Estonia, but then he added another 22.5 seconds to his winning margin to finish over a minute clear of team-mate Elfyn Evans.
That kind of gap sounds ridiculous in the world of modern rallying, especially as World Rally Championship rounds are won by smaller gaps. But impressive as it was, the nine minutes and 18.2 seconds that Rovanperä took to navigate the second pass of the 9.91 miles of Kambja was not, in fact, the most dominant powerstage win since its introduction to the WRC in 2011.
Here are the six biggest powerstage wins in WRC history:
Acropolis Rally, 2013
Sébastien Ogier beats Evgeny Novikov by 9.9s
After three stages it looked like M-Sport Ford’s Evgeny Novikov was going to dominate the Acropolis. He’d opened up a 39.1s lead over Jari-Matti Latvala, driving for the usually dominant Volkswagen, but then the next stage he hit a rock and lost four-and-a-half minutes.
It didn’t get much better after that, his car hobbling all the way through to service after SS6 by which point Novikov was almost eight minutes off the lead, outside of the points positions and behind a WRC2 car.
With a repaired car he bounced back to win SS8 and SS9, moving him up to ninth, and going into the powerstage he was 18.7s shy of eighth place. Drivers were taking it carefully on the lengthy 18.73 miles of rough Loutraki gravel, unless their lack of overall position to preserve left them nothing to defend. Sébastien Ogier was one of them.
He had retired halfway through the opening stage due to electrical problems, been out of action until the next day and was rapid thereon to make it into the top 10. Victory on the powerstage would quadruple his points return from the rally, and he did just that by a massive 9.9s over the similarly hungry Novikov, himself the best Ford driver by 11.1s but only 3.5s faster than Mikko Hirvonen, who he had been hunting down for eighth place.
Rally Argentina, 2015
Ogier beats Dani Sordo by 9.9s
The famous El Condor stage is one of the trickiest and prone for opening gaps at the end of rallies rather than closing them. And as a result, it appears multiple times on this list.
In 2015, Ogier had won the first three rallies of the season but in Argentina was in a position of going on a final stage attack because, just like in Greece two years earlier, he had been forced to retire early on.
This time his exit came on SS2, instigated by a fuel injector issue, and when he returned to action, he suffered power steering failure too. That only made Ogier even more hungry to bag all three points for victory on the powerstage, particularly on a weekend where his Volkswagen team-mates had suffered car issues too. He duly charged through it 9.9s faster than next-best Dani Sordo.
All of the attention was on the driver who came through fifth fastest though, as Citroën’s Kris Meeke claimed his first WRC event win.
Rally Argentina, 2014
Ogier beats Mikko Hirvonen by 10.5s
There was nothing truly at stake for Ogier or second-fastest driver Mikko Hirvonen on the rally-ending pass through El Condor in 2014, as the reigning world champion was 1m37.5s behind rally-leading team-mate Latvala and Hirvonen was well adrift in ninth overall. Runaway points leader Ogier had not even managed a fastest stage time since the opening day of the rally.
While it was a statement from Latvala that the title race was not already settled after five rallies when he crossed the line to take victory, it was a counterstatement from Ogier when he completed the powerstage 10.5s faster than anyone else. At the time, it was the biggest ever powerstage win.
Rally Argentina, 2016
Hayden Paddon beats Dani Sordo by 11.2s
What’s the best way to secure your first WRC win? How about beating the best drivers in the world by 11.2s over just 10.14 miles?
And you know what adds to the drama even more? That same driver had dropped 19.6s to his closest rival in the previous stage and gone into the powerstage just 2.6s ahead. This is the modern classic that was 2016 Rally Argentina.
Hayden Paddon had two WRC podiums prior to Argentina and ended the first leg of the rally 11.4s off leader Latvala. Ogier was between them in second place, having swept the road through the first nine stages, and it was a role he would continue into the next day’s six stages.
It was during this leg of the rally that Paddon moved into a lead of 34.3s, but only after erstwhile leader Latvala had rolled out. Ogier was second and was fueled by his frustrations at the WRC’s road order regulations, and also had more experience of the remaining stages. Despite the gap to the lead, an Ogier win certainly looked possible.
The gap shrank by 4.5s, 7.4s and then 19.8s in the stages leading up to the decider, and then the 2.6s margin all but disappeared when the pair reached the first split of El Condor. Momentum was in Ogier’s favor, but then there were no times for the next split and it was unclear who was provisionally now in the lead of the rally.
But in the split after Paddon was comfortably ahead, by over eight seconds, and through the twists and turns of one of the most famous stages in the Southern Hemisphere he was 11.2s faster than Hyundai team-mate Dani Sordo and 11.7s up on Ogier. A maiden WRC win, a perfect score and an utterly unforgettable performance that put the Kiwi’s feet under the Hyundai table just as team leader Thierry Neuville’s form had dipped. The world still awaits the opportunity to see a second Paddon win…
Rally Estonia, 2022
Rovanperä beats Evans by 22.5s
Today, a powerstage victory is worth five points rather than three, putting even more importance on preparing well for the final stage of each rally. That can mean treating the first pass through a powerstage as a high-speed recce on Sunday morning, or looking after the tires in the preceding stages to ensure there is as much grip as possible for the final miles of the event – or just putting the balls on the dashboard, as Craig Breen would say, and attacking it as hard as possible.
Last weekend it looked like Rovanperä took that final approach as heavy rain hit Kambja, making grip levels wildly inconsistent and filling ruts with water that triggered aquaplaning moments for several drivers. Andreas Mikkelsen, who’d gone into the stage first before the rain began lashing down, went third quickest in his Rally2-spec Škoda Fabia, such was the difference in conditions as the stage evolved.
The outcome on the low-grip conditions was a colossal 22.5s win for Rovanperä over Toyota team-mate Evans, meaning the rally victory was claimed by a huge 1m00.9s. And in a straight fight – they were running one after the other in the road order.
Mikkelsen was almost as dominant as the overall winner too, given he won the five powertstage points in the WRC2 classification by beating Hyundai’s Teemu Suninen by 22.1s.
Monte Carlo Rally, 2017
Neuville beats Stéphane Lefebvre by 30.1s
The first rally for the last generation of World Rally Cars reminded everyone that when you increase the speed and spectacular nature of the cars, the rallies themselves tend to also increase in drama.
Unfortunately, the event started in tragedy as a spectator lost their life, and the early freezing conditions put Hyundai’s Neuville in the lead while new M-Sport signing had put his brand-new Ford Fiesta WRC in a ditch.
The second day began just as icy but far sunnier, and Neuville was still the driver to beat on most stages until he clouted a bridge parapet he didn’t have in his notes on the final test and the rear-right suspension of his Hyundai i20 Coupé WRC.
Ogier was promoted into a hefty 47.1s lead for the final day of three stages (once one had been canceled) and Neuville had some redeeming to do as he finished the day in 15th overall and 32m04.7s behind.
The powerstage ended up being his opportunity to do that, as most drivers turned up with the wrong tires for a snowy stage. Several called it unbelievable, Evans said it was “rallying at its cruelest”, and some set their sights on Toyota driver Juho Hänninen’s tire combination as the one to have. And so Neuville proceeded to go through the 13.27-mile test 55s faster than him and 30.1s quicker than Citroën’s Stéphane Lefebvre.
Ogier was only 11th fastest, 1m56.2s off the pace and slower than two R5 drivers, but it was more than enough to claim the rally win by 2m15s. Neuville, despite his emphatic powerstage win, didn’t progress from his 15th place – Oliver Burri was over seven minutes up the road beforehand. But those five points came in handy as eight rallies later, Neuville would draw level with Ogier in what would become a classic title fight.