Kalle Rovanperä laid down a Rally Estonia marker by scorching to fastest time at a sun-kissed shakedown on Thursday morning in which the top three were blanketed by six-tenths.
The Estonian-domiciled Finn stopped the clocks five-tenths faster than home hero Ott Tänak in the 6.23km gravel road Abissaare test. Takamoto Katsuta completed the top three, just a tenth further back.
“It was a bit damp conditions so the grip was really high and everything worked well,” said Toyota Yaris driver Rovanperä. “Then on the last pass we had a bit of testing for the second pass conditions and the feeling is good on both set-ups.”
The 20-year-old is keen to end a troubled run of four rallies in which he has broken into the top six just once – in Kenya last month. He acknowledged that the fast, smooth roads on which he started his career offered a great chance to break that spell.
“I don’t think it’s pressure so much, but for sure [I have] the feeling that I really need to have a clean rally without any issues. Of course, it’s not really the best place to push crazy much, but it’s also a rally where I want to be quick,” he added.
After overnight showers, Tänak was quickest in the first run in his Hyundai i20 before Rovanperä moved top of the timesheets in the second pass. He lowered the benchmark further in his third and final run as temperatures climbed and the roads dried.
Elfyn Evans made it a third Yaris in the top four. The Welshman, making his 100th WRC start, ended 0.5sec behind team-mate Katsuta. Sébastien Ogier and Thierry Neuville completed the top six, the pair split by just a tenth.
The leading times were:
|1.||Kalle ROVANPERÄ||Toyota Yaris||02min 51.1sec|
|2.||Ott TÄNAK||Hyundai i20||+0.5sec|
|3.||Takamoto KATSUTA||Toyota Yaris||+0.6sec|
|4.||Elfyn EVANS||Toyota Yaris||+1.1sec|
|5.||Sébastien OGIER||Toyota Yaris||+2.0sec|
|6||Thierry NEUVILLE||Hyundai i20||+2.1sec|
|7.||Craig BREEN||Hyundai i20||+2.6sec|
|8.||Teemu SUNINEN||Ford Fiesta||+3.5sec|
|9.||Gus GREENSMITH||Ford Fiesta||+4.6sec|
|10.||Pierre-Louis LOUBET||Hyundai i20||+6.0sec|