WRC ORLEN 80th Rally Poland
Poland
Starts: Thursday, June 27, 2024 at 8:00:00 AM
ERC Delfi Rally Estonia
Estonia
Starts: Friday, July 5, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM
Ferratum World RX of Sweden 1
Sweden
Starts: Saturday, July 6, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM

Thu 14 Jul 2022

Keen Breen grabs early Estonia lead

Craig Breen edged Finnish sensation Kalle Rovanperä to win Thursday night’s opening speed test at Rally Estonia.

M-Sport Ford’s Irishman pipped the FIA World Rally Championship leader by a tenth through the twisty 1.64km Visit Estonia Tartu test over the parkland roads of Raadi Manor.

Elfyn Evans was a further tenth behind Toyota GR Yaris team-mate Rovanperä after a blistering opening to this seventh round of the season, in which the top six drivers were blanketed by just 0.7sec.

Fastest time was sweet revenge for Ford Puma pilot Breen. Twelve months ago Rovanperä beat him by the same margin in this stage on the edge of second city Tartu.

On the second pass two days later, Breen almost threw away a hard-earned second place when he swiped a rock and was lucky to limp into the sanctuary of the nearby service park without losing time.

“I was so careful of the rocks in there and I tried to be as clean as I could,” he grinned. “It’s a good start to the weekend. These are amazing stages and we can really let our hair down.”

Thierry Neuville was fourth in a Hyundai i20, just 0.3sec adrift of Breen’s benchmark time. Team-mate and home hero Ott Tänak was another two-tenths back in fifth, despite his i20 getting stuck in gear.

“Things like this don’t give you much optimism,” he smiled ruefully.

Esapekka Lappi, who was fastest in the morning’s shakedown, competed the top six in another GR Yaris.

Takamoto Katsuta’s GR Yaris was successfully repaired after rolling in shakedown and the Japanese driver was seventh. Gus Greensmith, Oliver Solberg and Pierre-Louis Loubet completed the leaderboard.

The stage followed the early evening start ceremony when huge crowds packed Tartu’s charming Town Hall Square to cheer competitors on their way.

The going gets tougher on Friday as the longest leg of the rally brings 139.18km of action over identical morning and afternoon loops north and south of the city. The two laps are separated by service.

The pace will be hot from the start with the 24.35km Peipsääre, the longest test of the rally, kicking things off bright and early at 07.45 local time.

• Full coverage from Rally Estonia will be available on WRC+ All Live here, including every stage broadcast as it happens as well as key interviews, features and expert analysis from the service park

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