Fri 04 Aug 2023

Rovanpera revels in home conditions all over early for Tanak

Kalle Rovanperä reached Friday’s lunchtime halt 3.9sec clear of Toyota GR Yaris team-mate Elfyn Evans after reeling off a hat-trick of benchmark times at Secto Rally Finland.

Tänak admitted his chances of restarting on Saturday look slim, saying: “I can see that the engine oil is out and the engine is clearly broken. It’s quite probable there is a hole in the engine somewhere so I think this [rally] should be finished.”

There was also drama for Hyundai Motorsport when Esapekka Lappi had a high-speed crash during the rain-hit SS5. Lappi and co-driver Janne Ferm were unharmed in the incident but their car sustained heavy damage.

Lappi’s demise left team-mate Thierry Neuville to complete the podium. The Belgian trailed Evans by 8.4sec and reported a lack of rear grip from his i20 N.  

Katsuta was elevated to fourth on what he considers to be his “second home rally”. With a number of brand-new sections used in this year’s event, the Finland-based Japanese national opted for caution in places.

Teemu Suninen was fifth in another Hyundai while Toyota team principal Jari-Matti Latvala held sixth on his one-off return from driving retirement. The 38-year-old, starting his 210th WRC round, plans to build his speed and confidence as the rally progresses.

Seventh-placed Oliver Solberg led the Rally2 contingent while Sami Pajari, Jari Huttunen and Emil Lindholm completed the top 10.

The championship leader carried a pragmatic outlook into this first full day of action at the FIA World Rally Championship’s ninth round but won three of the morning’s four high-speed gravel speed tests despite starting first on the road.

Takamoto Katsuta’s fastest time through the Laukaa opener ensured it was a clean sweep of stage wins for Jyväskylä-based Toyota Gazoo Racing but there were no such fortunes for M-Sport Ford, which lost both of its cars in SS3.

Overnight leader Ott Tänak hit a heavy compression which caused damage to his Puma Rally1’s sump guard and engine. He switched to EV mode before exiting the stage via an access road. Pierre-Louis Loubet, on the other hand, ran wide on a right-hand bend and hit a tree which damaged his car’s rear suspension.

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