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

Sat 28 Oct 2023

Rovanperä nears second WRC crown as Evans suffers dramatic exit

Kalle Rovanperä took a major stride towards claiming his second FIA World Rally Championship title after his team-mate Elfyn Evans crashed out of Central European Rally on Saturday morning.

While championship leader Rovanperä had been practically untouchable on Thursday, cracks began to appear in his armour as the rally moved into Austria and Germany this morning. In SS10, the Finn saw his lead over Thierry Neuville more than halved as a result of a spin.

But Rovanperä’s misdemeanour proved highly insignificant in comparison to the dramatic exit of his Toyota GR Yaris colleague Evans, who crashed from third overall in the following test at Muhltal. The Welshman had been the only other driver still in contention for this year’s drivers’ championship crown but misjudged a slippery right-hander and slid into a barn door.

Unable to continue today, Evans’ retirement means that a drama-free finish will all but guarantee Rovanperä the title come Sunday. The 23-year-old dialled back his speed as a result, which opened the door for Hyundai i20 N man Neuville to claim an 11.1-second lead going into service.

"I knew that Elfyn was off, so why would I risk anything anymore?” Rovanperä said. “It’s a real shame for Elfyn and Scott (Martin, co-driver). They put on a good fight and it would have been really tricky for us to keep pushing.

“Being the last car on the road was really tricky, it was a big mess out there. Now the goal is a bit different and we will just try to finish with some good points," he added.

Ott Tänak climbed to third as a result of Evans’ demise, trailing Rovanperä by just over one minute in an M-Sport Ford Puma. A similar distance behind him was eight-time WRC champion Sébastien Ogier, who leapfrogged Toyota partner Takamoto Katsuta to claim fourth as the Japanese driver struggled to find confidence.

Crews now return to the service park in Passau before repeating the loop this afternoon.