Six more stages to be the youngest winner in the World Rally Championship (WRC): with 50 sec 7/10 ahead of Rally Estonia on Saturday, Finland’s Kalle Rovanperä (Toyota) has a good option on a record success Sunday.
After 18 specials in the seventh round of the season, Irishman Craig Breen (Hyundai) remains second. The duo are ahead of the Belgian Thierry Neuville (Hyundai), pointed at 1 min 20 sec 9/10 from the leader, the French Sébastien Ogier (Toyota), at 1 min 38 sec 8/10, and the Briton Elfyn Evans (Toyota), at 2 min 02 sec 2/10.
The Finn Teemu Suninen and the French Pierre-Louis Loubet are them 6th and 7th at 6:14 a.m. 3/10 and 7:32 a.m. 5/10 respectively.
In the lead since the first ES on Thursday, Rovanperä, who is only 20 years old, was only 8 sec 5/10 ahead of Breen on Friday night. By winning the first special on Saturday with 10 sec 7/10, the Finn quelled any hint of resistance and then continued to widen the gap without taking any unnecessary risk.
“We had prepared well for this special because we knew that it could make big differences. It was a great effort,” he explains. “Yesterday the gap was small and we increased it a lot, so it’s a great day. It wasn’t easy but it makes things easier for tomorrow.” CQFD.
– Succeed Latvala –
After being last year, for his first season among the elite, the youngest driver to reach the podium (3rd in Sweden), the young Kalle sees a new feat: to succeed another Finn, his boss at Toyota Jari -Matti Latvala, who was 22 when he won his inaugural victory in Sweden in 2008.
It would be a great way, too, to get back on track after a checkered first half of the season.
After a promising start (4th in the Monte-Carlo, 2nd in the Arctic Rally in Finland), Rovanperä led the championship after two rounds. But he struggled to recover from an accident in the first special of the following rally, in Croatia.
He then finished 22nd in Portugal, 25th in Sardinia, 6th in Kenya, and he finds color on roads that he knows well for having made his classes there before riding in the World. They also resemble what his native country can offer.
Behind the leader, except accident or breakdown, the podium seems promised to the Hyundai of Breen and Neuville. It remains to be seen in what order, only the Belgian playing the drivers’ classification.
“It’s a good result so far but there is one day left, so we won’t have to make any mistakes or have a mechanical problem to bring back a good result for the team,” urges Neuville.
– “Fight for the championship” –
At the top of the drivers’ standings with 34 points more than Evans and 56 better than the Belgian, Ogier, for his part, chose his fight on Saturday: “to fight for the championship”.
“For the moment, I am not fighting against Thierry but against Elfyn”, recalls the Frenchman. “Our main target is behind us, so everything is fine. Tomorrow we will have to keep our position and additional points are possible in the Power Stage.”
This famous Power Stage, 24th and last special of the rally at midday on Sunday, is certainly also eyeing the regional of the stage, Estonian Ott Tänak (Hyundai).
Announced among the favorites, he retired for the day Friday morning after a series of punctures but did not give up doing the show on Saturday, winning six specials out of nine.
“Tomorrow will be like today,” Tänak promises. “If it’s slow, we’re bored. At least let’s make it interesting.”
Source: Challenges en temps réel : accueil by www.challenges.fr.
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