Rovanpera closing on victory, Evans steals second

The championship leader could afford to back off during the pair of stages, ending the loop with a 1m29.32s lead over title rival and team-mate Elfyn Evans, who snatched second from Hyundai’s Dani Sordo.

Sordo started the morning in second spot but trailed Evans by 2.7s heading into the final stage.

M-Sport’s Ott Tanak maintained fourth (+4m25.8s) ahead Hyundai’s Esapekka Lappi (+6m18s) and Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta (+7m09.5s). Andreas Mikkelsen overhauled Gus Greensmith to claim seventh and the WRC2 lead.

The hot and dry weather conditions continued as the rally resumed on Sunday morning, and after a brutal Saturday, reaching the finish was the key target for Rovanpera.

Having witnessed all of his Toyota team-mates suffer punctures or mechanical issues, the Finn engaged preservation mode having started the day with a 2m04.4s lead over Sordo.

Rovanpera admitted that it was «not so easy when you don’t have any pace and a proper rhythm,» but was relieved to complete stage 13 (Tarzan, 23.37km), albeit, 31.2s adrift of the outright pace.

That pace was delivered by his championship rival and team-mate Evans, who was locked in a close fight for second with Sordo.

The Welshman managed to take 9.0s out of his Hyundai rival, who was struggling on soft rubber, to leapfrog the veteran Spaniard. 

Thierry Neuville clocked the third fastest time after rejoining the action after retiring from the lead on Saturday afternoon.

Sébastien Ogier, Vincent Landais, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Sébastien Ogier, Vincent Landais, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

Likewise, Sebastien Ogier also returned to the stages after his Saturday exit but had two minutes added to his overall time after he and co-driver Vincent Landais failed to correctly fasten their safety belts following their stoppage in stage 12 on Saturday evening.

The penalty dropped him from ninth to 15th spot.

The final stage of the loop (Gramenni, 9km), shortened due to road damage caused by Storm Daniel, prompted a response from Sordo.

Sordo managed to pip Evans by 1.3s as the battle for second took another twist.

«I need to try, but at the same time I don’t want to make any mistake,» said Sordo. «To be on the podium is nice but to be second is better. I’m sad I lost a lot of time on the first stage but it’s like it is.»

Tanak was third fastest on the test ahead of Neuville and Ogier, as the trio upped their pace given the test will act as the rally-ending Power Stage later this afternoon. Rovanpera increased his speed to post the seventh fastest time but was mindful not to take any risks.

Source link