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Rovanpera grabs Estonia Rally lead as rivals slip and slide

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TARTU, Estonia: Finn Kalle Rovanpera grabbed the Estonia Rally lead on Friday's final stage after his Welsh Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans lost time tangling with the undergrowth.


The Toyota pair dominated the day's eight stages. Evans won the first five to build a 19.9sec lead over Rovanpera, who was second in four of them.


Then the 21-year-old Finn hit back, winning the next two to enter the last stage of the day still 10.9sec behind.


He won that too as rain fell and Evans went off course on the narrow forest road and trailed in seventh, 22.6sec back.


"I think you can see what the story is'', said Evans. "We were in the bushes right at the start, so after that it was a case of making sure we got through. There's nothing you can do when the conditions are like that."


Rovanpera, who won the race last year, leads the championship by 65 points from Belgian Thierry Neuville in a Hyundai.


The young Finn was pleased with his comeback in the day's later stages which gave him an 11.7sec lead.


"The afternoon was good'', he said. "It will be interesting to see what happens to the guys behind."


Home driver Ott Tanak was third in his Hyundai 44 seconds back after a 10 second penalty and a mechanical problem on the last stage.


AUTO-RALLY-CRO
AUTO-RALLY-CRO


The Estonian incurred the penalty when he was caught switching out of electric mode on his hybrid Hyundai on the way to the start of the opening stage.


He then lost more than 23 seconds as he finished ninth on the last stage as the rain obscured his view.


"A pipe came off the heater and we had no visibility..." Tanak complained to the WRC site, which ran a screen grab from inside the car showing co-driver Martin Jarveoja lifting his left leg to press a duct against the windscreen.


Neuville finished the day fifth, more than 1 minute 10 seconds behind Rovanpera.


There are nine more special stages scheduled for Saturday, and four more on Sunday morning to close the seventh round of the season.


Craig Breen, who won stage one on Thursday, was forced out for the day after crashing on stage 4 and damaging his steering. — AFP


Standings:


1. Kalle Rovanpera/Jonne Halttunen (FIN/Toyota) 1hr 16min 19.7sec. 2. Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (GBR/Toyota) at 11.7sec. 3. Ott Tanak/Martin Jarveoja (EST/Hyundai) 44.3. 4. Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (FIN/Toyota) 1:05.9. 5. Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (BEL/Hyundai) 1:12.9. 6. Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (FRA/M-Sport Ford) 2:08.1. 7. Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (JPN-IRL/Toyota) 2:10.9. 8. Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (GBR-SWE/M-Sport Ford) 2:29.4. 9. Pierre-Louis Loubet/Vincent Landais (FRA/M-Sport Ford) 3:59.0. 10. Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen (NOR/Skoda)4:57.4.


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