Ott Tänak lies third in the 2021 Renties Ypres Rally Belgium going into day two in a race so far dominated by his team, Hyundai. Teammate and local hero Thierry Neuville is in first place, while Hyundai are also leading the second tier WRC2 field, as well as the junior class, via Estonian Robert Virves, as things stand.
The Belgian is 7.6 seconds ahead of Irishman Craig Breen, following the seven stages – the planned eighth stage was cancelled on the basis of safety concerns – while Tänak, 33 from Saaremaa, is 31.2 seconds behind Neville in third. Reigning and seven-times world champion Sebastien Ogier is down in 6th in the Toyota Yaris.
Tänak won the opening stage proper Friday afternoon, the 15.00km Reninge Vleteren 1, with Breen winning the next two, and Neuville taking a clean sweep of the remaining four.
Tänak did say, however, his i20 had suffered engine issues which have been causing a loss of power, even after the afternoon's maintenance break, adding that this had not taken away any of the enjoyment of the event so far.
Tänak, champion in 2019, said: "In the afternoon things felt okay, but [starting after the maintenance break] there was still a problem. It wasn't a dead loss; here we are and we'll be fine, and luckily we didn't lose out much. We'll most likely win again tomorrow."
Tänak had finished second in the opening test – held on the Friday morning rather than the more familiar Thursday evening used in many WRC events – again just behind Neuville, though Ogier was third that time around.
The Ypres Rally is the 56th of its kind – The 2020 event was canceled due to the pandemic – and follows a 295.78-kilometer course of narrow and slippery roads where they encounter a variety of different asphalt surfaces and have to negotiate fast bends without coming to grief in the many ditches that line the route.
The final day of racing, on Sunday, heads to the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit, more familiar as the long-time home of the Formula One Belgian Grand Prix.
One other Estonian taking part in Ypres is young Robert Virves, with M-Sport Ford, who is second at present in the overall standings in the WRC junior race.
The narrow and slippery roads took their toll on some drivers, particularly from the M-Sport Ford lineup – Adrien Formaux (France) and Gus Greensmith (Britain) both crashed out, while in the second-tier WRC2 class, Tom Kristensson (Sweden) had to drop out on the last stage, while Finnish teammate Teemu Suninen limped over the finish line with a burst tire, catapulting another Hyundai man, Oliver Solberg (Sweden) into first place.
The race continues Saturday at 10.11 a.m. Estonian time, with stages nine to 16, taking things (see below) through to the evening. A final four stages will be held Sunday morning through lunchtime.
Tänak has won one race so far this season, the Arctic Rally in Rovaniemi, Finnish Lapland, back in February, and lay in fourth place in the table going into Rally Belgium. Sebastien Ogier leads, over Elfyn Evans (Wales) and Neuville.
2021 Renties Ypres Rally Belgium full schedule of stages, with stage distance, start time, and stage winner in italics
Test stage Langemark (9.81 km) 9.01 T. Neuville (Hyundai)
SS1 Reninge Vleteren 1 (15.00 km) 14.36 O. Tänak (Hyundai)
SS2 Westouter - Boeschepe 1 (19.60 km) 15.25 C. Breen (Hyundai)
SS3 Kemmelberg 1 (23.62 km) 16.15 C. Breen (Hyundai)
SS4 Zonnebeke 1 (9.45 km) 17.09 T. Neuville (Hyundai)
SS5 Reninge - Vleteren 2 (15.00km) 19.15 T. Neuville (Hyundai)
SS6 Westouter - Boeschepe 2 (19.60 km) 20.04 T. Neuville (Hyundai)
SS7 Kemmelberg 2 (23.62 km) 20.54 T. Neuville (Hyundai)
SS8 Zonnebeke 2 (9.45 km) 21.48 Stage cancelled due to safety concerns
SS9 Hollebeke 1 (23.53 km) 10.11
SS10 Dikkebus 1 (12.49 km) 11.08
SS11 Watou 1 (13.62 km) 12.01
SS12 Mesen - Middelhoek 1 (7.99 km) 12.51
SS13 Hollebeke 2 (25.86 km) 15.11
SS14 Dikkebus 2 (12.49 km) 16.08
SS15 Watou 2 (13.62 km) 17.01
SS16 Mesen - Middelhoek 2 (7.99 km) 17.51
SS17 Stavelot 1 (9.05 km) 9.30
SS18 Francorchamps 1 (11.21 km) 10.08
SS19 Stavelot 2 (9.05 km) 11.40
SS20 Francorchamps 2 (11.21 km) 13.18
Editor: Andrew Whyte