Kalle Rovanperä dominated during Day 2 on WRC’s Central European Rally, winning four out of six stages today. His lead is 36.4 seconds heading into Saturday.
Rovanperä mastered the wet conditions during the first full day at the brand-new Central European Rally. The championship leader, who can clinch the title this season if Elfyn Evans doesn’t outscore him, maximised the benefits of being first on the road.
The Finn’s statement of intent was clear: making the most of his good road position during the first loop of the day. Rovanperä, being first on the road, had the best conditions, with the least mud on the road.
Rovanperä won all three stages in the morning loop to lead by a massive 29.2 seconds at mid-day. In the afternoon loop, he won one stage and managed to increase his lead to 36.4s at the end of the day.
At the end of the Rovanperä said: “It has been super tricky today. Luckily, the weather was for once on our side with the starting position, it was good to be the first car on the road. We can be happy with our day.”
Neuville in a close battle with Evans
Thierry Neuville ends the day in P2, claiming the place after winning the final stage of the day: “I am constantly on the limit of the grip in the car. We just went this morning with too stiff of a set-up,” the Belgian said at the end of the day.
Evans, who needs to outscore Rovanperä to keep the title battle alive, is P3 at the end of Friday, 10.8s behind Neuville.
Ott Tänak is in fourth, a big 43.2s behind Evans and 56.4s ahead of Takamoto Katsuta.
Eight-time WRC champion Sébastien Ogier is in P6, 9.1s adrift of Katsuta. Ogier picked up a puncture in the SS3, Friday’s opening stage, and lacked motivation after that. “Unbelievable, unbelievable,” he said, visibly frustrated with the puncture.
Teemu Suninen is just 3.2s behind Ogier in P7. Grégoire Munster ends his first full day on tarmac with a Rally1 car in P8, 20s shy of Suninen.
Pierre-Louis Loubet lost five minutes in the final stage of the day after having to change a puncture after just 200 metres: “On the first braking, the front completely locked. I was not thinking that it was so slippery and I went straight into the side. When I went to change the wheel, all the mud was on the tools so I was not able to change it immediately,” the Frenchman said. Before that, he had been given a 1-minute time penalty for not wearing his safety equipmet properly.
Esapekka Lappi went off the road in SS5 of the rally. He was in P3 heading into the stage. Crew is OK!
The top 10 was completed by WRC2 leader Emil Lindholm and local hero Erik Cais.
VIDEO: Lappi off the road in SS5
That’s it for the stages in the Czech Republic. Day 3 and Day 4 features stages in both Austria and Germany.
WRC Central European Rally 2023 – Standings O/A after Friday (SS8)
|#||Drivers||Car||Time / Diff. to 1st|
|1.||Rovanperä / Halttunen||Toyota GR Yaris Rally1||1:13:05.1|
|2.||Neuville / Wydaeghe||Hyundai i20 N Rally1||+36.4|
|3.||Evans / Martin||Toyota GR Yaris Rally1||+47.2|
|4.||Tänak / Järveoja||Ford Puma Rally1||+1:30.4|
|5.||Katsuta / Johnston||Toyota GR Yaris Rally1||+2:26.8|
|6.||Ogier / Landais||Toyota GR Yaris Rally1||+2:35.9|
|7.||Suninen / Markkula||Hyundai i20 N Rally1||+2:39.1|
|8.||Munster / Louka||Ford Puma Rally1||+2:59.1|
|9.||Lindholm / Hämäläinen||Hyundai i20 N Rally2||+5:36.3|
|10.||Cais / Trunkát||Skoda Fabia RS Rally2||+5:51.2|
Photo: Toyota Gazoo Racing