Finn Kalle Rovanperä (Toyota) has consolidated his grip on the WRC 2022 drivers' championship top spot after a dominant performance in South Estonia for round seven of the series. Local driver Ott Tänak came third for Hyundai, with Rovanperä's Toyota teammate, Welshman Elfyn Evans finishing second.
Sunday, July 17
While much of the race weekend saw wet conditions, this was all the more so Sunday when torrential rain brought a lot of standing water to the tracks, and many drivers struggled to retain grip and handling.
Rovanperäa, 21, won three of Sunday's six stages, including bagging five points in the final Wolf Power Stage, while his dominance from Friday lunchtime, when he took over from teammate Evans in terms of stage wins and dropped only two between then and Sunday morning - to Evans again, and one consolation stage to M-Sport Ford's Adrien Fourmaux (France), along with the absence of eight-time and reigning world champion Sebastien Ogier meant he has now been able to extend his lead at the top of the drivers' table to 175 points, 83 points ahead of second-placed Thierry Neuville and nearly 100 points ahead of Tänak, the 2019 champion, in fourth place.
The Estonian won the second stage on Sunday morning, the relatively long 16.48-km Kanepi stage, while Rovanperäa compatriot and teammate Esapekka Lappi won the fourth and fifth stages of the day.
The third of the WRC teams, M-Sport Ford, had a miserable weekend after a promising start on the very opening stage Thursday, won by Irishman Craig Breen, with two of their star drivers, Englishman Gus Greensmith and Frenchman Pierre-Louis Loubet having to retire Sunday.
Andreas Mikkelsen,won the WRC2 category for Škoda
Another bright spot for Estonia came in the form of Robert Virves, who came second in the Junior WRC class.
Rovanperä is now on track for his maiden WRC title with six races left, the next round being next door in Finland, starting August 4.
Watching WRC+ while waiting for the start of the Wolf Power Stage at 14:18 (UTC+3)— World Rally Championship (@OfficialWRC) July 17, 2022
Follow @RallyEstonia LIVE ➡️ https://t.co/IXbfRuzl7M@thierryneuville @MWydaeghe @HMSGOfficial #WRC | #WRCLive | #WolfPowerStage I #RallyEstonia pic.twitter.com/2byLQ3rtVv
Saturday, July 16
While Evans won the opening stage at Elva Saturday morning, Rovanperä cleaned up all the remaining eight stages, bar just one, which went as a consolation to M-Sport Ford driver Adrien Fourmaux.
Rovanperä lies 29.1 seconds ahead of his teammate overall at the end of Saturday, and one minute and 11 seconds ahead of Tänak.
Finn Esapekka Lappi, another Toyota man, is fourth despite having to change a broken tire after landing heavily on a jump, while Tänak's team mate at Hyundai Thierry Neuville (Belgium) is fifth, Fourmaux sixth (see leaderboard below).
The final day's events in South Estonia start bright and early 6.48 a.m. Estonian time, and with the last stage starting at 2.18 p.m., things should be wrapped up around three o' clock or so.
Friday, July 15
Tänak is 44.3 seconds behind the race leader, at his home event.
Heavy rain was experienced in the latter part of the day's events, which started at 7.45 a.m. and ended nearly 12 hours later, though the morning was dry.
Tänak and co-driver Martin Järveoja were also hit by a heater issue, which caused the windshield on the Hyundai i20 to mist over.
The pair were as high as second, despite Tänak reporting handling issues, coming into lunch but fell foul of hybrid regulations Friday morning and experienced a time penalty.
Tänak has expressed reservations about the new rules, in place for the first time for the 2022 season and which require switching to a hybrid drive-chain when driving in pre-set zones, in the past.
Evans had dominated the morning's events and won all four stages, only for Rovanperä to prevail after lunch.
Meanwhile, Irishman Craig Breen (M-Sport Ford) had to sit out the rest of the day after breaking his suspension in the first stage of the morning. Breen had won the opening stage on Thursday evening.
Another driver, New Zealander Hayden Paddon, who drives for Hyundai, had to drop out of the event altogether, after testing positive for Covid.
The race weekend continues Saturday with eight stages, the first starting at 9.03 a.m., in Elva, Tartu County.
Thursday, July 14
Thursday saw the start of Rally Estonia, round seven of the 2022 World Rally Championship (WRC), with local hero Ott Tänak competing for Hyundai. The event is a full WRC race for the third time.
Irishman Craig Breen won the evening stage, the first to be held before spectators and a short, 1.66km track outing around the Estonian National Museum (ERM) in Tartu, on the site of a former airfield. The stage started just before 8.40 p.m. Thursday, while weather conditions had been wet much of the day.,
Finn Esapekka Lappi put in the fastest time at Thursday morning's test run, while Tänak finished third– in his fourth pass, Anett Kontaveit swapped a racquet and balls for a navigation card and was co-driver!
Before the race
Tänak said ahead of the race that: "Naturally I personally would like to drive for victory at home, but our focus is mostly on being able to get to be finishing rallies without too much stress, compared with our competitors ... We certainly do not have a strong position, but we will give our maximum contribution towards a result."
Tänak and co-driver Martin Järveoja have won one race so far this season, in Sardinia in early June, and lie in third place in the championship standings.
In addition to being a full WRC event, a status first achieved with the 2020 event, the race is also stage four of the domestic rally championship.
Principal organizer Urmo Aava told ERR on Wednesday that: "As of the start, there are 42 WRC crews, 66 crews involved the Estonian championship, plus about 3,500 people are taking part in the rally's organization this weekend. This is quite a large number of people."
Finn Kalle Rovanperä currently leads the table by a comfortable margin on 145 points, having won four out of six stages, followed by Tänak's teammate at Hyundai, Belgian Thierry Neuville, and then Tänak himself, tied on points (62) with Japanese driver Takamoto Katsuta.
Tänak has won on his home track several times, both prior to the race being a full calendar event (it was a promotional event in 2019 and became a full calendar race a year later, when it marked a return from several months' hiatus in competition due to the Covid pandemic, and was won by Tänak again), but last year the Estonian had to pull out on the Friday due to a flat tire and the victory went to Rovanperä.
The Rally Estonia stages schedule, with distances in kilometers and start times in local Estonian time, 24 hour clock, is as follows (completed stages in italics, plus stage winner's name).
Thursday, July 14:
9.01 - Test run Abissaare (6,23 km)
20.38 - SS1 ERM 1 (1,66 km) BREEN
Friday, July 15:
7.45 - SS2 Peipsiääre 1 (24.35 km) EVANS
8.43 - SS3 Mustvee 1 (17.09 km) EVANS
10.26 - SS4 Raanitsa 1 (21.45 km) EVANS
11.29 - SS5 Vastsemõisa 1 (6.70 km) EVANS
13.38 - Maintenance break
15.16 - SS6 Peipsiääre 2 (24.35 km) ROVANPERÄ
16.14 - SS7 Mustvee 2 (17.09 km) ROVANPERÄ
17.57 - SS8 Raanitsa 2 (21.45 km) ROVANPERÄ
19.00 - SS9 Vastsemõisa 2 (6.70 km) ROVANPERÄ
Saturday, July 16:
9.03 - SS10 Elva 1 (11.73 km) EVANS
10.16 - SS11 Mäeküla 1 (10.27 km) ROVANPERÄ
11.08 - SS12 Otepää 1 (17.08 km) ROVANPERÄ
12.02 - SS13 Neeruti 1 (7.60 km) ROVANPERÄ
13.50 - Maintenance break
15.08 - SS14 Elva 2 (11.73 km) ROVANPERÄ
16.16 - SS15 Mäeküla 2 (10.27 km) ROVANPERÄ
17.08 - SS16 Otepää 2 (17.08 km) ROVANPERÄ
18.02 - SS17 Neeruti 2 (7.60 km) ROVANPERÄ
19.08 - SS18 ERM 2 (1.66 km) FOURMAUX
Sunday, July 17 :
6.48 - SS19 Raadi 1 (6.56 km) ROVANPERÄ
8.16 - SS20 Kanepi 1 (16.48 km) TÄNAK
9.08 - SS21 Kambja 1 (15.95 km) ROVANPERÄ
11.00 - SS2 Raadi 2 (6.56 km) LAPPI
12.28 - SS23 Kanepi 2 (16.48 km) LAPPI
14.18 - SS24 Kambja 2 (15.95 km) ROVANPERÄ
Rain is forecast for Thursday and much of race weekend.
Readers with Estonian can follow a live-blog here.
Editor: Andrew Whyte