Ott Tanak (Hyundai) has claimed his second consecutive and third victory of the season at the Ypres Rally Belgium 2022. On a vibrant and decisive final day, the 2019 World Champion managed to fend off a feisty Elfyn Evans (Toyota) to defeat him by 5 seconds.
A splendid Esapekka Lappi arrived third completing the double podium of the Japanese team (1m, 41 sec y seis thenths). This is the Finn’s second consecutive podium and third of the season after Finland.
Leader of the standings and Toyota’s head of ranks, Kalle Rovanperä, was not so lucky, visibly uncomfortable at the challenging Flemish track from the very beginning.
During the second special his car of the event exited the track into a ditch and rolled several times. He had to abandon the race as a result. Thankfully, both the gifted Finn and his co-pilot Jonne Halttunen were unharmed in the accident, although their GR Yaris was badly damaged.
This, however, should be but a mere mishap in Rovanperä’s glorious path towards his first WRC crown. He is still miles ahead of the second classified in the standings.The Flying Finn, winner in Sweden, Croatia, Portugal, Kenya & Estonia, leads the overall 72 ahead of Tänak and 87 over Evans, third.
Thierry Neuville, on the other hand, has been the greatest disappointment of the weekend. The local hero was unable to repeat the success of 2021 and was out of action on Saturday following an accident while he was comfortably leading the race.
Sunday: The final battle
Sunday started with Tänak and Evans 8,2 seconds apart. Tänak was able to keep a cold head during the first two stages of the day despite the Welshman’s offensive, which saw his advantage shrink by 1,5 seconds down to 6,7 seconds.
The Estonian just had to manage his lead without the need to take any unnecessary risks. He even allowed himself the luxury of losing another 2.2 seconds in the ‘Power Stage‘, where he finished fourth, two places worse than Evans and three with respect to the winner of the stage, Rovanperä.
That was enough for the reborn from Kärla to neutralise the relentless attacks of Elfyn Evans -by 5 seconds- who is desperate to take his first and elusive triumph of the hybrid era.
Saturday: Neuville is out and Tänak battles Evans for the lead
With a brilliant start to the day, Tänak unseated Neuville from the lead by 0.1 seconds in the first stage of the day, 9th of the race. However, he was only able to hold off the Belgian for one more leg.
In the third stage on Saturday, 11th of the rally, the Estonian gave up the baton to his Belgian teammate by 6.1 seconds. Cheered on by his public, the native runner reached a maximum distance of 18.2 seconds with respect to Tänak.
The desire of the national fans seemed to be fulfilled. However, in the penultimate special of the day, the national star was sent off track and into a ditch at a left-hand turn in the penultimate special of the day. Although he was able to resume running, he had no choice but to abandon shortly after.
In this unexpected way, the until then absolute dominator with 17.2 seconds of lead in the Ypres Belgium Rally 2022, handed over the lead to his teammate Tänak.
For his part, Evans, who had been crouching behind both Hyundai drivers, climbed to second position, 6.3sec off the lead, a gap that increased to 8.2sec by the end of the day. Favored by the Neuville incident, Lappi had climbed to third place, with a delay of one minute, nine seconds and eight tenths.
Friday: Neuville shines as Rovanperä crashes
In Friday’s battle, Neuville was intractable. In fact, he won five of the eight stages, the last four in a row. As a result of that exhibition, he had unseated Evans in stage number 7, penultimate of the day, beating him by 0.7s and Tänak by 0.6s.
Catapulted by another driving lesson, the Belgian strengthened that lead to 2.5 and 13.7 seconds on the Estonian and Welshman, respectively, before going to sleep.
By the way, all of them had seen how one of the favorites to win, Rovanperä, suffered an accident that took him out of the race, from which point Evans had remained the leader… until the ‘Belgian storm’ arrived.
Images of Ypres Rally Belgium 2022: WRC.