Brilliant Rovanperä storms to Rally Estonia victory

18th July 2022
Damien Smith

Five victories from seven? At just 21, Kalle Rovanperä is already a World Rally Championship phenomenon as he strokes towards his first title. Toyota’s young star was in a different class once again on Rally Estonia last weekend, with yet another performance to suggest he is the natural heir to the two Sébastiens Loeb and Ogier on the world’s special stages.


Rovanperä proves a rain master

Sunburn wasn’t much of a problem for the WRC circus in Estonia as changeable weather challenged the crews to adapt as best they could. Indeed, at the end of the first day a heavy cloud-burst caused havoc – and running first on the road, Rovanperä surged into a lead he wouldn’t lose.

The Finn spent Friday in the shadow of Toyota Yaris team-mate Elfyn Evans, the Welshman winning five of the eight tests to open up a handy lead. But that drenched closing stage of the leg cost him dear, as a swing of more than 20 seconds left Rovanperä on top overnight.

Evans pushed on through Saturday morning to gain back what he’d lost, but as he admitted, he had “no answer” to his team-mate’s pace. Rovanperä claimed seven consecutive stage wins to stamp his mark on the event. He carried that form over to Sunday, blitzing the final Power Stage to even claim a maximum of bonus points. In all, he won 14 of the rally’s 24 stages to beat Evans by an astonishing one minute and 0.9 seconds. As we say, different class.


Tanak’s home podium

Estonian hero Ott Tänak was never really in with a shout for a home win. But a third-place podium finish was as good as it was going to get for the Hyundai ace and 2019 world champion. A ten-second penalty for failing to run on electric power alone in an EV-only zone was his biggest setback, which Hyundai will surely take. For once, the i20 N Rally 1s ran reliably – even if they were in the shadow of Toyota once again. Belgian Thierry Neuville, second in the WRC points, ran cleanly to a secure fourth place, aided by a puncture for Toyota’s Esapekka Lappi on Saturday. The trouble is, the gap to Rovanperä in the so-called ‘title race’ is only growing bigger. Neuville will need a monumental turnaround over the rest of the season to close the significant gap of 83 points over his remarkable young rival.


More misery for M-Sport

The Estonia Rally results table says a lot about how M-Sport’s season is turning out, following the initial joy of Sébastien Loeb’s wonderful cameo victory in Monte Carlo. January seems an awful long time ago now.

In Estonia, only Frenchman Adrien Fourmaux scored in a Ford Puma – and even then, he lost sixth place to a recovering Lappi on the final stage. Irishman Craig Breen started well with a victory on the opening stage on Thursday, but the following day ran wide at a left-hander and hit a concrete post. That broke his front suspension.

Pierre-Louis Loubet also damaged his suspension against a rock on Sunday and lost eighth place, and to cap a miserable Estonia Rally for M-Sport, Gus Greensmith bid adieu to a top ten finish with transmission trouble.


Next up, Rally Finland

The fast gravel roads of Finland await the WRC crews on 5-7th August, before the final four rallies of the season. Last year in Finland Evans put in a storming performance to win – but he hasn’t claimed a WRC victory since. A repeat performance next month would be well-timed after second places in Portugal, Kenya and now Estonia. But given Rovanperä’s imperious form you’d have to say he won’t start as the rally favourite, even with Kalle starting first on the road for the opening leg. And even if Evans can pull off a second consecutive win on one of the toughest rallies of them all, it might well be too little, too late. The title is undoubtedly the brilliant Rovanperä’s to lose.

Images courtesy of Motorsport Images.

  • Rally

  • Estonia

  • Kalle Rovanpera

  • Ott Tanak

  • Elfyn Evans

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