The Toyota driver produced an head turning display despite being disadvantaged by road position to end the day leading Hyundai’s Dani Sordo by 10.8s. Rovanpera won three of the day’s eight stages to become the fourth different leader of the event to date.
A late push from Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville pushed the Belgian to third, 26.0s adrift ahead of M-Sport’s Pierre-Louis Loubet, who led after winning the first stage, but lost time due to a fire after stage 3.
Esapekka Lappi reached service in fifth, 1.3s behind Neuville, but ahead of M-Sport’s Ott Tanak, who completed the Rally1 field in sixth (+1m04.7s). Toyota duo Elfyn Evans and Takamoto Katsuta were forced to retire.
Drama struck Friday morning’s rally leader Tanak on the opening test of the afternoon, a repeat of the day’s first stage. The Estonian’s front right tyre came off the rim which cost the M-Sport driver 50.4s seconds while he powered on through the stage.
“It went on the start, I think. Under braking or something. It is quite a weak product,” said a frustrated Tanak, who dropped from the lead to seventh overall.
After struggling across the morning, Lappi surged to the top of the times to chalk up Hyundai’s first stage win of the rally. The Finn was was the fourth different stage winner in as many stages.
His team-mate Sordo emerged as his nearest rival, 3.0s shy, although the Spaniard admitted he was driving with tyre preservation in mind. Although, Tanak’s tyre problem shot Sordo to the overall rally lead.
Dani Sordo, Candido Carrera, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1
Photo by: Austral / Hyundai Motorsport
Incredibly M-Sport were able to repair Loubet’s damaged Puma after a fire broke out at the end of stage three which allowed the Frenchman to attack the afternoon stages. He set the third fastest time, 0.5s quicker than Rovanpera, a time that was enough to climb to fourth overall.
Road sweeper Evans faced the worst of the road conditions, while Hyundai’s Neuville also continued to struggle for outright pace. The latter however climbed to third overall courtesy of Tanak’s demise.
The rally lead changed hands for the fourth time in five stages when Rovanpera came to the fore to win stage five.
The Finn was cautious of the puncture risk thanks to the rougher road surface caused by the first pass. He managed to safely navigate through clocking a time 0.4s faster than Neuville, who was also careful on his way to setting the second fastest…