Kalle Rovanperä claimed a podium finish for the Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team at Ypres Rally Belgium. He prevailed in a battle with his team-mates Elfyn Evans and Sébastien Ogier as the event came to a close at the famous Spa-Francorchamps grand prix circuit.
In the first Ypres Rally to be held as part of the FIA World Rally Championship, all three of the team’s drivers were closely matched throughout their debut appearance on the tricky Belgian roads. They ended Saturday’s second day of action covered by just 4.3 seconds in an in-house fight for third overall, with Evans leading Rovanperä and Ogier as they headed to Spa for the final four stages.
The final day’s stages were considerably different in character to what had come before, combining twisty public roads in the Ardennes region with access roads around the Spa circuit and sections of the racetrack itself. Rovanperä stole a march on the competition in the day’s first stage, where he posted the fastest time to move ahead of Evans and into third. Ogier meanwhile dropped back from his team-mates after sustaining tyre damage.
Rovanperä went on to seal third place by 6.5 seconds over Evans and claim an impressive result for himself and co-driver Jonne Halttunen. Evans and his co-driver Scott Martin took fourth while Ogier and Julien Ingrassia finished fifth. Ogier was second-fastest on the rally-ending Power Stage (with Rovanperä fourth and Evans fifth) to gain additional points and strengthen his championship lead. This now stands at 38 points over Evans, who is tied on points with the driver in third. Toyota continues to lead the manufacturers’ standings by 41 points.
Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal)
“It was a really close fight between our drivers today and in the end it was Kalle who had great pace and could finish on the podium. He had a strong rally, and that is really nice to see in his first rally back on asphalt after the accident in Croatia. I think all the drivers did a good job this weekend, we just couldn’t fight for the victory because we didn’t have the experience here. On Friday our guys had to learn about the surface and the grip levels and once they had that experience, they could match the top times for the rest of the rally, but by then it was a little too late. But we know that we can’t win every rally and still we got important points for the championship this weekend.”
Sébastien Ogier (Driver car 1)
“I was looking forward to an exciting final day with a nice battle for the podium with our team-mates, but after three or four kilometres of the first stage this morning we picked up a puncture. After that moment we focused on the Power Stage. We didn’t manage to win it but still we got second place, with four extra points. Thanks to that we come out of this weekend leading the championship by one point more than before, so it’s not that negative.”
Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)
“Today was unfortunately the worst day of the rally for us. It just didn’t really click from the outset this morning. We were pushing at points but lost a bit with a few mistakes. Kalle had a strong day and a great result for him. Overall it has been a bit of a frustrating weekend, and the potential was there to do a little bit better than we did. I think we had very good performance at points and in certain conditions, but we didn’t manage to back that up throughout all the stages. Now we obviously have to look forward to the next one and try to be better.”
Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)
“The final day here in Belgium was really nice. It was one of the tightest fights I have been in on a Sunday and to compete with your team-mates is always interesting. The stages around Spa were maybe a little bit easier for me, a bit closer to what I have driven before on other rallies and therefore a bit easier for me to get up to the pace, but it was still quite tricky. I’m really happy with this result. The two drivers in front had a lot of experience of this rally and you could see in the times on Friday that nobody could match them. I think that for us to be able to match the rest with our lack of experience and finish on the podium is really good.”
PROVISIONAL FINAL CLASSIFICATION, YPRES RALLY BELGIUM
1 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) 2h30m24.2s
2 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +30.7s
3 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota Yaris WRC) +43.1s
4 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota Yaris WRC) +49.6s
5 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota Yaris WRC) +55.8s
6 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +3m46.5s
7 Yohan Rossel/Alexandre Coria (Citroën C3 Rally2) +12m14.9s
8 Pieter Jan Michiel Cracco/Jasper Vermeulen (Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo) +13m05.9s
9 Fabian Kreim/Frank Christian (Volkswagen Polo GTI R5) +13m13.8s
10 Vincent Verschueren/Filip Cuvelier (Volkswagen Polo GTI R5) +13m31.1s
(Results as of 15:00 on Sunday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)
The Acropolis Rally in Greece returns to the WRC calendar for the first time since 2013 on 9-12 September. The event has a legendary reputation thanks to its rough and rocky terrain.