Fri 27 Oct 2023

Title-hunting Rovanperä dominates rain-soaked Friday morning

Kalle Rovanperä made the best possible start to his FIA World Rally Championship title push by dominating Friday morning’s waterlogged stages at Central European Rally.

Kalle Rovanperä made the best possible start to his FIA World Rally Championship title push by dominating Friday morning’s waterlogged stages at Central European Rally.


The 23-year-old Finn won all three asphalt speed tests in the south of Czech Republic, mastering streaming-wet conditions to build a commanding 29.2-second lead over second-placed Toyota GR Yaris team-mate Elfyn Evans.


His performance means that Rovanperä is in prime position to secure his second consecutive WRC title this week - providing he can maintain consistency and not concede any points to Evans, who was 31 points adrift of his colleague coming into this penultimate round of the season.


Rovanperä's speed was further amplified by his advantageous starting position. Being first in the running order allowed the youngster to take advantage of cleaner road conditions while his rivals had to contend with mud being dragged onto the road by every passing car.

"I don't think the push has been big, but I think the conditions are for sure good for the first car and the driving has been good," he admitted.


Evans felt he had been too cautious on some sections of road, saying: “I was kicking myself for being a bit too careful in some places but it’s pretty difficult in these conditions.”


Thierry Neuville led the rally after two super special stages on Thursday afternoon but ended the morning nine-tenths of a second behind Welshman Evans after finding his Hyundai i20 N difficult to control in fast sections.


“We kept the [suspension] springs from shakedown, which are obviously far too hard,” explained the Belgian. “[With no service], I have to carry on the whole day now with that set-up.”

Neuville came under pressure from team-mate Esapekka Lappi but his place on the podium was made more secure when the Finn crashed heavily in Sumavske Hostice. Ott Tänak was a further 13.7sec behind in fourth despite being at odds with his Ford Puma’s set-up while Takamoto Katsuta, driving a Toyota, completed the top five.


Teemu Suninen was sixth ahead of Puma pairing Pierre-Louis Loubet and Grégoire Munster, who were split by just six-tenths of a second. Eight-time WRC champion Sébastien Ogier ended the morning in ninth after dropping over 40 seconds with tyre damage on SS3.


Emil Lindholm rounded out the top 10 and led the WRC2 category in a Hyundai i20 N Rally2. There was big drama in the support category with title protagonists Andreas Mikkelsen and Yohan Rossel both suffering off-road excursions.

Latvia
Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Italy
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Hungary
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM