Championship Leader Smartly Eases Off, Enabling Evans to Seize Second Place


The leader of the championship smartly eased off during a two-stage run, concluding the loop with a 1m29.32s lead on his title opposition and team member Elfyn Evans. This lead enabled Evans to swoop in for second place, stripping it from Hyundai’s Dani Sordo.

Sordo commenced the morning occupying the spot directly beneath the lead, but by the time of the final stage, he was lagging 2.7s behind Evans. Meanwhile, M-Sport’s Ott Tanak secured his fourth position (+4m25.8s), followed by Hyundai’s Esapekka Lappi (+6m18s), and Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta (+7m09.5s). It was an eventful day as Andreas Mikkelsen overhauled Gus Greensmith leading to his winning seventh place and securing the WRC2 lead.

The rally resumed amidst the raging dry and hot weather conditions on Sunday morning, and reaching the finish line was of paramount importance for Rovanpera. Having seen his Toyota colleagues endure punctures and mechanical issues, Rovanpera wisely adopted preservation tactics, commencing the day with a solid 2m04.4s lead over Sordo.

Despite the challenge of maintaining pace and rhythm, Rovanpera was relieved to complete the 13th stage (Tarzan, 23.37km) although he finished 31.2s away from the outright speed. This speed was showcased by his title rival and teammate Evans who was in a heated skirmish for second place with Sordo. The Welshman successfully shaved 9.0s off his Hyundai rival, getting ahead of the experienced Spaniard.

After his unscheduled retreat from the lead position on Saturday afternoon, Thierry Neuville clocked the third fastest time upon rejoining the race. Similarly, Sebastien Ogier, too, returned after his departure on Saturday, but with an additional two minutes added to his overall timing due to him and his co-driver, Vincent Landais’s failure to properly secure their seatbelts after their cessation in stage 12 on Saturday. This penalty caused a significant slip from ninth to the 15th position for him.

Responding to the final, shortened stage of the loop (Gramenni, 9km), cut short due to road damage from Storm Daniel, Sordo endeavored to gain a 1.3s lead over Evans, heralding another interesting development in the fight for second place.

Reflecting on his performance, Sordo voiced his tempered play-off strategy of managing risks while aiming high, expressing melancholy over the lost time in the first stage. The final test saw Tanak securing the third fastest time, with Neuville and Ogier escalating their pace. In a balanced stance, Rovanpera picked up speed to post the seventh fastest time ensuring not to gamble with risks.


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