Punctures cut Tänak's Friday short, Rovanperä and Breen battling for lead
The second day of Rally Estonia has wrapped up with Toyota man Kalle Rovanperä in the lead ahead of Hyundai drivers Craig Breen (+8.5 seconds) and Thierry Neuville (+53.4). Estonian star Ott Tänak ended his day with an early retirement after puncturing two of his tires.
Finnish driver Kalle Rovanperä (Toyota) finished the second day in first place ahead of Hyundai drivers Craig Breen (+8.5 seconds) and Thierry Neuville (+53.4). Seven-time world champion Sebastien Ogier (Toyota; +59.4) is at fourth with Finn Teemu Suninen (Ford; +1:15.1) giving chase. Tänak's retirement dropped him down to 13th in the WRC classification, more than an hour behind the leading man.
Craig Breen praised the Finnish leader, saying "he is on a different level". Rovanperä was humble after a spectacular day and said everything is going according to plan.
Tänak, who placed fifth overall after the opening stage in Tartu Thursday evening had clawed his way up to the top after stage two Friday morning. However, in the very next stage, his right-front punctured, though the Estonian opted to limp home to the end of the stage and lose 25 seconds in the process, rather than change a tire and lose more than a minute.
He then had to leave the car where it was at the end of stage two, the 17.05-kilometer Otepää stretch, meaning the Hyundai team had to retrieve it, take it to the maintenance center in Tartu, and get it back into service ahead of day three, Saturday.
"At the beginning of stage four I went wide into a corner and went out on the field and knocked off two tires. I had two punctures so we had no spares left and it was not possible to continue," the Estonian recalled the accident, which forced him to retire for the day.
Rally Estonia will continue on Saturday with nine speed stages scheduled (see below).
This year's event is the second full-WRC calendar Rally Estonia; the race had been a domestic one up until last year, over its 10-year history. Coronavirus restrictions are not as severe as they were a year ago for the inaugural race, and close to 30,000 people are attending over the whole event.
The race has also been substantially lengthened on last year, from 233 km to 314 km and with the addition of new stages on the shores of Lake Peipus (Peipsi Järv).
Tänak and co-driver Martin Järveoja were victors in 2020 at a time when he was reigning world champion, a title clinched in the penultimate race of the 2019 season.
Rally Estonia itinerary with distances and start times: (completed stages in bold).
Practice Abissaare (6.23 km) 9.01
SS1 Tartu 1 (1.64 km) 20.38
SS2 Arula 1 (12,68 km) 9.40
SS3 Otepää 1 (17.05 km) 10.28
SS4 Kanepi 1 (16.54 km) 11.16
SS5 Kambja 1 (17.85 km) 12.08
SS6 Arula 2 (12.68 km) 15.34
SS7 Otepää 2 (17.05 km) 16.22
SS8 Kanepi 2 (16.54 km) 17.10
SS9 Kambja 2 (17.85 km) 18.08
SS10 Peipsiääre 1 (23.53 km) 8.06
SS11 Mustvee 1 (12.28 km) 9.08
SS12 Raanitsa 1 (22.76 km) 10.36
SS13 Vastsemõisa 1 (6.70 km) 11.39
SS14 Peipsiääre 2 (23.53 km) 15.06
SS15 Mustvee 2 (12.28 km) 16.08
SS16 Raanitsa 1 (22.76 km) 17.34
SS17 Vastsemõisa 2 (6.70 km) 18.37
SS18 Tartu 2 (1.64 km) 20.08
SS19 Neeruti 1 (7.82 km) 7.21
SS20 Elva 1 (11.72 km) 8.09
SS21 Tartu vald 1 (6.51 km) 9.08
SS22 Neeruti 2 (7.82 km) 11.41
SS23 Elva 2 (11.72 km) 12.29
SS24 Tartu vald 2 (6.51 km) 14.18
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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Kristjan Kallaste