Toyota’s 20-year-old Kalle Rovanperä has taken his first WRC victory at the Estonian Rally becoming the youngest WRC winner in history. Incidentally, the young Finn has snatched this record from his current teammate Jari Matti Latvala, who achieved his first win in 2008 when he was 22 years and 313 days old.
Since taking the head of the race on Friday, the #69 set an unattainable pace and kept the lead until the end. The precocious driver crossed the finish line ahead of both the Hyundais of Craig Breen and Thierry Neuville, leading them by 59,9 and 60,12 seconds, respectively. Toyota teammates and title hopefuls Sébastien Ogier and Elfyn Evans closed the top 5.
Despite finishing in fourth place, Ogier, winner in Montecarlo, Croatia, Sardegna & Kenya, increased his lead of the standings against his Welsh rival. With his calculated and mistake-free driving, the legend from Gap has emerged victorious once again from another difficult challenge.
Ott Tänak was the great disappointment of the weekend. The local hero was knocked out on Friday, although he re-joined the race and ended up taking nine partial wins. Not enough considering that this is his fourth abandonment of the season.
Rovanperä has now climbed to fourth place in the standings with 82 points, 66 less than the leader. Leading the ranking is Ogier with 148 points, 37 more than Evans.
With this triumph, Toyota has scored its fifth consecutive victory, sixth of the season, extending its leadership in the Constructors’ Championship with 315 points over Hyundai witn 256.
Rovanperä dominates from Friday
The Scandinavian driver has dominated in a territory that he knows like the back of his hand. It was here in Estonia, as well as in Latvia, that Rovanperä first started competing since these two countries allow youngsters to race from the age of 16.
The driver from Toyota displayed his outstanding skills at what was a very fast and complicated race. Despite all of the bumps and jumps, he placed himself at the top of the Estonian Rally right from the beginning and kept his rivals at bay throughout.
Rovanperä set the best time at the first special but gave up the lead in the following two Friday stages. After the abandonment of Tänak, the Finn achieved five consecutive scratches (SS3-SS7).
His fierce pace on Friday allowed him to end the day with an 8.5-second advantage over Craig Breen and a 53.4-second one over Thierry Neuville.
Closing the top five was Ogier, followed by his partner and rival, Elfyn Evans, 59.4 and 60,15 seconds behind the leader respectively.
Ott Tänak’s fans were devastated after their idol had to abandon following three punctures and a trip across the grass in the morning loop of the Estonian Rally. The 2019 world champion and his team are not having the best of seasons.
Saturday: Rovanperä increases his lead
Following a lightning start, Rovanperä continued extending his lead through Saturday to end the day with a 50,7-second advantage over Breen, second. Neuville came in third, but too far down the line to pose a serious threat to the leader.
The Belgian driver had lost one minute and twenty seconds. One place down was Ogier, still very much in control of his race. The seven-time champion finished fourth on Saturday, one minute and thirty-eight seconds from the leader.
Evans, for his part, maintained his fifth place. Tänak, in a rallying masterclass, conquered six consecutive scratches (SS11-16), partly compensating his fan’s for their previous disappointment.
Sunday, Rovanperä remains on top
To the delight of his countrymen, Tänak started the Sunday as strongly as he had finished the Saturday. He set the best time in three stages, including the Power Stage. His commanding display, however, had come too late.
The was nothing that Rovanperä’s rivals could do at this point to challenge his lead. As hard as he tried, Breen could not get close to the young Scandinavian. Neuville once again saved the honour of the South Korean team with his third place and fifth podium of the year.
Images: Toyota WRT.