Rally Estonia: Day 2 Rovanperä flies to the front with TOYOTA GAZOO Racing

2023.7.21 (Fri)

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team’s Kalle Rovanperä was in fine form on the first full day of Rally Estonia, flying into the lead on the fast forest stages.

Car 69 (Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen)
Car 69 (Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen)

The reigning champion and current points leader was tasked with sweeping loose gravel roads during the morning loop of three stages but produced consistent times to return to mid-day service in Tartu in second place overall, only 6.8 seconds from the lead. He then made a storming start to the afternoon, setting the pace over the repeats of the Peipsiääre and Mustvee stages to claim the lead. He ended the day with an advantage of three seconds over Thierry Neuville (Hyundai).

Elfyn Evans was running second behind Rovanperä on the road and was not far behind his team-mate across the morning loop, which he completed in third overall. He was in a close battle with Esapekka Lappi (Hyundai) during the afternoon, finishing it just 1.9s behind his rival in fourth position. Takamoto Katsuta meanwhile is seventh overall, looking to build his confidence and pace on the high-speed but frequently technical stages.

Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal)

“It’s been a positive first full day for us. Kalle, opening the road, did really well on the second pass of the stages especially, when there were quite big ruts and we didn’t expect that he could do such amazing times. Elfyn was also driving well from his starting position. He made some changes with the setup during the mid-day and this seems to have improved his confidence which is good for tomorrow. Taka on the other hand has been missing the confidence a bit today in the ruts in particular and we will try to help him with this. I’m sure that if he keeps going and driving a normal rally then he can still be in the top five at the finish. At the moment it’s a really interesting rally for everybody, the gaps are close and we have a good fight going into Saturday.”

Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)
“It was a really big challenge this morning opening the road, as it was much looser than I was expecting. It seems the roads had been drying quite a bit since the recce. I think we did a good job, we pushed really hard without making mistakes and there was not much more that we could do. This afternoon was a bit better, as we could at least have similar grip levels to the guys behind. We needed to open the ruts a bit in places but at least we could push and at the end of the day it’s not looking so bad. It’s still close with Thierry so let’s see how it is tomorrow when we both have better starting places. I hope at least that our pace will come easier than today.”

Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)
“Our day started not too bad this morning considering our road position, but I didn’t have the best feeling with the car. I was struggling with the balance a little bit and it wasn’t as easy as I’d like. So there were definitely some improvements to be made with the setup during service, and things were quite a bit better this afternoon. Unfortunately we just had one stage – the third one of the loop – where we seemed to drop a lot of time but other than that I’ve had an improved feeling behind the wheel and that puts us in a better place looking ahead to tomorrow.”

Takamoto Katsuta (Driver car 18)
“It has been quite a long and tough day for me. In the morning, I was struggling a bit and didn’t feel so good with the car. Then, this afternoon, the conditions on the second pass were much rougher. The team did a good job to improve the car a lot, but on my side, I was still finding it difficult. The high-speed sections are OK for me, but when it’s very technical or when it’s rutted and the risk is getting higher, I’m hesitating too much. Tomorrow we will drive four stages twice and I will try step-by-step to find some confidence and hopefully start to use the potential of the car more.”

End of day two (Friday):
1 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) 1h12m22.2s
2 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +3.0s
3 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +12.2s
4 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +14.1s
5 Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +33.8s
6 Pierre-Louis Loubet/Nicolas Gilsoul (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +48.8s
7 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +1m03.6s
8 Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +4m07.4s
9 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +4m14.1s
10 Sami Pajari/Enni Mälkönen (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +4m25.0s
(Results as of 19:05 on Friday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)

What's next?
Saturday follows a different format to Friday, with two stages (Mäeküla and Otepää) run twice in the morning before mid-day service, and another pair of tests (Elva and Kanepi) driven twice in the afternoon. The Tartu super special is revisited upon returning to service in the evening, creating a total of 102.61 competitive kilometres for the day.

Kalle Rovanperä
Kalle Rovanperä
Car 33 (Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin)
Car 33 (Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin)
Car 18 (Takamoto Katsuta, Aaron Johnston)
Car 18 (Takamoto Katsuta, Aaron Johnston)