It has been the perfect start to Rally Estonia for home-favourites Ott Tanak and Martin Jarveoja. The defending World Rally champions lead their Hyundai team-mates Craig Breen and Paul Nagle by 6.8 seconds at Saturday’s halfway point.
Toyota had been tipped to set the pace following comparisons made between Estonia and the high-speed stages of Rally Finland but instead it’s Hyundai who holds the podium positions with Thierry Neuville in third, 4.4 seconds ahead of Sebastien Ogier.
Championship leader Ogier, has struggled for grip on some of this morning’s stages as he opens the soft gravel stages. The Frenchman charged back with a Stage 5 win which moved him into fourth ahead of Elfyn Evans.
Kalle Rovanpera went fastest on the first stage of the day to lead a WRC event for the first time in his young career. His time at the top was short-lived with a puncture on the following stage, Kanepi, costing him over 20 seconds.
Rovanpera remained cautious on Stage 4 as he assessed the impact that rear bodywork and aerodynamic damage had on his Toyota Yaris WRC. The Finn bounced back on the final two stages of the morning with two fastest times helping him climb back up the leaderboard from eighth to sixth.
An impressive drive from Japan’s Takamoto Katsuta puts him in seventh ahead of M-Sport’s Esapekka Lappi and Teemu Suninen. The M-Sport crews have struggled for pace all morning and an overshoot for Lappi on the morning’s final stage, Elva, seemed to sum up their difficult morning.
Back upfront, it is Tanak in control and the Estonian will be glad to see his Hyundai team-mates holding the podium positions ahead of Ogier, Evans, and Rovanpera. Tanak came into his home event fifth in the WRC standings and 24 points off leader Ogier. All three Toyota drivers are ahead of him in the championship standings.
The same five stages will be repeated this afternoon as the crews now head into Rally Estonia’s Tartu service area.
Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motorsport