WRC 2 in Finland:
Rovanperä powers ahead
Kalle Rovanperä won seven stages to secure a 32.0sec lead in the WRC 2 category at the end of leg one at Neste Rally Finland.
The Skoda Motorsport driver was a class above the rest as he made a successful start to his first WRC event on home soil. The 17-year-old defied his lack of experience to build a commanding lead heading into Saturday – the longest day of the rally.
The Fabia R5 driver was faster than his team-mate – and closest challenger – Ole Christian Veiby from Friday’s first stage. And when the Norwegian ran wide into a ditch on SS6 and broke a left-rear brake calliper, Rovanperä knew it would be hard for his rival to catch him. Veiby eventually ended the day in fourth place.
Veiby’s error allowed Finnish championship leader Eerik Pietarinen to move up to second in his Fabia. Taking two stage victories, Pietarinen was consistently quick and pulled out a 25.5sec advantage over third-place Jari Huttunen in a factory-entered Hyundai i20 R5.
Gus Greensmith endured a frustrating day as he finished fifth. Troubles with the set-up of the Briton’s Ford Fiesta R5 affected his times during the morning loop, while a spin in SS6 cost him further time as he was caught out by hanging dust.
Greensmith’s cause was helped when Takamoto Katsuta crashed heavily in SS8. The Toyota development driver was running fifth for most of the day, but he was caught out when he failed to straighten his Fiesta’s steering wheel as it landed after a crest. That caused the car to sharply snap right and he ploughed into trees and rocks at the side of the road.
The Japanese driver and his co-driver Marko Salminen were okay but they will not restart on leg two.
Nicolas Ciamin ended the day sixth in his i20, while a 10.0sec time penalty relegated Simone Tempestini to seventh.
The Romanian was the sole Citroën C3 R5 driver to survive the day as Stéphane Lefebvre retired early in the morning with a technical issue after clipping a bank in SS2.
Another five drivers also failed to complete the day. Fabio Andolfi, who won Thursday night’s Harju super special stage, and Toyota development driver Hiroki Arai joined Jarkko Nikara, Murat Bostanci and Jouni Virtanen on the list of retirements.
Head to WRC+ to watch All Live from Neste Rally Finland, including every stage broadcast live, breaking service park news and expert studio analysis.
Friday in Finland: Ott edges revitalised Østberg
Daylong struggle for championship leader Neuville
Newsclip Neste Rally Finland 2018
Video Newsclip Neste Rally Finland 2018
SS6/7: Østberg back in front
Huge battle at head of Finland leaderboard