Home favourite and reigning World Rally Champion Ott Tanak came out on top during Friday morning’s Rally Estonia shakedown as the WRC got underway following a long pause.
Tenths of a second split the leading drivers through the 6.23km Abissaare test until the world champion pulled clear in his final two runs. He eventually ended 1.4s faster than anyone else.
The Estonian’s time confirmed his status as pre-event favourite for this fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, which is visiting the Baltic state for the first time. The rally also marks the 600th WRC event since the series began in 1973.
The Hyundai i20 driver set the pace in the opening run, as one of just two drivers to break the three-minute mark. After returning to the Raadi service park in Tartu, Tänak went back out and lowered his earlier time by 1.6s.
He completed his morning’s work by reducing the benchmark by a further 0.4s to head championship leader Sébastien Ogier, driving a Toyota Yaris, who moved up the rankings with a strong final run.
M-Sport Ford’s Esapekka Lappi was third, a further tenth behind. The Finn completed five runs in his Ford Fiesta, making light of his lack of pre-event testing compared to others and posting his best time in the final pass.
Teenager Kalle Rovanperä claimed fourth in a Toyota Yaris, another tenth adrift, with Thierry Neuville 0.2s behind the Finn in an i20. Elfyn Evans completed the top six.
Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta overshot a junction in his first pass, but in worse trouble was Teemu Suninen.
The M-Sport Ford driver emerged from his fourth run with front right damage to his Fiesta after going off the road and hitting a tree. Suninen drove the car back to service where his mechanics were examining the extent of the damage, which is reported not to be serious.
|1||Ott Tänak||Toyota Yaris||2:56.8s|
|2||Sébastien Ogier||Ford Fiesta||+1.4s|
|3||Esapekka Lappi||Toyota Yaris||+1.5s|
|4||Kalle Rovanperä||Toyota Yaris||+1.6s|
|5||Thierry Neuville||Hyundai i20||+1.8s|
|6||Elfyn Evans||Toyota Yaris||+2.4s|
|7||Craig Breen||Hyundai i20||+2.6s|
|8||Takamoto Katsuta||Toyota Yaris||+3.2s|
|9||Pierre-Louis Loubet||Hyundai i20||+3.4s|