Estonia WRC: Hyundai in control as local hero Tanak leads Breen

A 10-stage marathon on the first full day in Estonia saw the Hyundais of Ott Tanak and Craig Breen take control of the fourth round of the 2020 FIA World Rally Championship.

Both of the rally leaders survived a day in which many fancied runners found their progress stymied by tyre wear and punctures on the fast, flowing gravel stages.

As the rally proper began early on Saturday morning, overnight leader Esapekka Lappi’s Ford Fiesta WRC was quickly engulfed. On the opening 21km stage, Toyota’s rookie sensation Kalle Rovanpera rocketed to the top of the order while Lappi tumbled to seventh.

Rovanpera then hit trouble on the next stage when a right-rear puncture took a slice out of his bodywork, knocking off several of the car’s all-important aerodynamic components. This incident dropped him to eighth and handed the advantage to the Hyundai men led by defending world champion, Tanak. 

In front of a hugely passionate home crowd, Tanak delivered a scintillating performance to take the overall lead. By the end of the third stage of the day it was Hyundai 1-2-3, with Breen secure in second place and Thierry Neuville climbing to third. 

Behind the Hyundais, the four Toyota Yaris WRCs sat in line astern with Sebastien Ogier claiming a win on SS5 to keep ahead of Elfyn Evans, an impressive Takamoto Katsuta and young Rovanpera as he fought to regain lost ground.

The starting order was switched during the lunchtime service, giving points leader Ogier a break from sweeping the stages. Although the Frenchman was immediately able to add a stage win on SS7, Toyota’s challenge was blunted when both he and Evans were delayed by tyre problems through the afternoon. 

Rally leader Tanak remained in imperious form and a superb performance from Craig Breen saw him take wins on both SS9 and SS10, closing up on Tanak and putting a disheartening gap between them and the pursuing Toyotas.

Disaster struck third Hyundai of Thierry Neuville, however. The Belgian began to close on Breen and then slid wide on SS7, knocking the right rear corner off his i20 WRC.

As the second such retirement in a row for Neuville, winner of the season-opening Monte Carlo Rally, his chances in the drivers’ championship of this truncated 2020 season have taken a potentially terminal blow. 

Tanak therefore holds a commanding position going into the final day, with part-time teammate Breen performing a superb job of riding shotgun.

“I been pushing couple of stages, you know, just to make some gap but this afternoon, especially the middle stages, got really rough so I know I can’t risk anything,” Tanak said after the final stage of the day. “I need to definitely come through it if I want to win – or to fight – for the championship,” he added.

The WRC2 battle saw a wild game of snakes and ladders early in the day as overnight leader Mads Ostberg lost half a minute to a puncture in his Citroen C3. The Hyundai juniors also hit trouble as Ole Christian Veiby went out after damaging his engine on one of the jumps and then suffering a double puncture, while Nikolai Gryazin was delayed by several wild moments.

With the Skoda of Swedish privateer Pontus Tidemand picking its way carefully through the stages to avoid costly damage, the WRC2 leader’s baton was briefly passed to the Ford Fiesta of Frenchman Adrien Fourmaux. Once the front-runners were back up to speed, however, Ostberg thundered back to the lead and held a 38-second advantage over Gryazin at the end of the day.

Right behind Ostberg in the overall standings at the overnight halt lies Oliver Solberg’s VW Polo at the front of the WRC3 class, holding an 18-second advantage over local man Egon Kaur’s Skoda, while in the Junior WRC Latvia’s Martins Sesks leads Sami Pajari.

Rally standings after SS11:

Cla # Driver/Codriver Car Class Gap
1 8 Estonia Ott Tanak
Estonia Martin Jarveoja
Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC RC1
2 42 Ireland Craig Breen
Ireland Paul Nagle
Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC RC1 9.800
3 17 France Sébastien Ogier
France Julien Ingrassia
Toyota Yaris WRC RC1 22.100
4 33 United Kingdom Elfyn Evans
United Kingdom Scott Martin
Toyota Yaris WRC RC1 34.300
5 69 Finland Kalle Rovanperä
Finland Jonne Halttunen
Toyota Yaris WRC RC1 36.700
6 18 Japan Takamoto Katsuta
United Kingdom Daniel Barritt
Toyota Yaris WRC RC1 57.900
7 4 Finland Esapekka Lappi
Finland Janne Ferm
Ford Fiesta WRC RC1 1'33.500
8 3 Finland Teemu Suninen
Finland Jarmo Lehtinen
Ford Fiesta WRC RC1 1'41.600
9 7 France Pierre-Louis Loubet
France Vincent Landais
Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC RC1 2'04.500
10 44 United Kingdom Gus Greensmith
United Kingdom Elliott Edmondson
Ford Fiesta WRC RC1 2'37.100
shares
comments
Estonia WRC: M-Sport’s Esapekka Lappi takes early lead

Previous article

Estonia WRC: M-Sport’s Esapekka Lappi takes early lead

Next article

Estonia WRC: Tanak revitalises title bid with home win

Estonia WRC: Tanak revitalises title bid with home win
Load comments
The steely determination behind the WRC’s Solberg 2.0 Prime

The steely determination behind the WRC’s Solberg 2.0

Two decades after Petter Solberg emerged as a World Rally Championship winner, his son Oliver is ready to take the WRC by storm. Having secured a part-time WRC factory drive for Hyundai in 2022, he's raring to repay the marque's faith in him and follow in his 2003 champion father's footsteps

WRC
Oct 14, 2021
Analysing the key moves in WRC’s 2022 silly season Prime

Analysing the key moves in WRC’s 2022 silly season

The World Rally Championship will step into a new hybrid era in 2022, but the car changes haven't been the only excitement that has built within the paddock. WRC's 'silly season' kicked off in a big way and all the key driver moves for 2022 - of which there are many - look set to shake things up.

WRC
Oct 13, 2021
Why winning in Finland was Evans' true WRC coming-of-age Prime

Why winning in Finland was Evans' true WRC coming-of-age

By his own admission, the fifth World Rally Championship victory of Elfyn Evans' career in Finland last weekend was the drive of his life. Winning five stages in a row and soaking up huge pressure from the Hyundais on the fastest gravel stages around, the Welshman put in a faultless showing that proved what he is truly made of

WRC
Oct 4, 2021
Does Neuville have a point with his WRC Rally1 rant? Prime

Does Neuville have a point with his WRC Rally1 rant?

OPINION: Thierry Neuville's diatribe against the upcoming Rally1-spec machines that will usher in the World Rally Championship's new hybrid era was remarkable in an era where drivers are usually reticent to air their views in public. But are the Belgian's concerns about speed, safety and cost entirely valid?

WRC
Sep 16, 2021
How Rovanpera reached new heights in the Greek mountains Prime

How Rovanpera reached new heights in the Greek mountains

After Kalle Rovanpera’s historic feat at Rally Estonia, the Finn scaled new heights at the Rally of the Gods with a commanding victory. And this time Toyota’s young star demonstrated why the future is bright with his devastating speed and consistency at the Acropolis Rally

WRC
Sep 13, 2021
The WRC drivers that came of age at the Acropolis Rally Prime

The WRC drivers that came of age at the Acropolis Rally

Five drivers have won first time out at the Rally Acropolis, transcending the tough dirt and gravel Greek roads to cement a place in rallying folklore. Here are three of the first-time winners' tales

WRC
Sep 9, 2021
Understanding Suninen’s sudden WRC exit gamble Prime

Understanding Suninen’s sudden WRC exit gamble

From being considered a likely contender to drive the next-generation M-Sport Ford Puma in 2022, Teemu Suninen's abrupt exit has created plenty of questions. The Finn's bid to become his country's next World Rally Championship winner won't be furthered by being sidelined, but there may be reason behind the decision

WRC
Sep 2, 2021
Could Spa’s cameo offer the WRC a new avenue to exploit? Prime

Could Spa’s cameo offer the WRC a new avenue to exploit?

OPINION: The Ypres Rally featured a cameo from the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in its final stage, giving WRC teams the chance to experience its iconic corners in rallying machinery. It proved to be an engaging addition to the rally, and could perhaps serve as an example for other events to visit famous circuits

WRC
Aug 24, 2021