Kalle Rovanperä (Toyota) crushed the competition on Friday during the 2nd day of the Central European Rally, 12th round of 13 in the WRC World Rally Championship, finishing the day in the lead with more than 36 seconds ahead of the Belgian Thierry Neuville (Hyundai). The Finn set the pace in the Czech Republic by taking the lead in the 4th special on Friday morning and winning four of the day's six timed courses. He thus demonstrates his desire to win his 2nd consecutive world crown from this Central European rally and before the last round of the championship in Japan in mid-November.
The 23-year-old Finn's only opponent remains his teammate at Toyota, Briton Elfyn Evans, who is currently 31 points behind him. But on Friday evening he was only in 3rd position, 47.2 seconds behind the leader. To secure his title on Sunday, Rovanperä must either finish ahead of his rival or not concede more than one championship point.
The rally took to the Czech roads on Friday, which were very wet and muddy and therefore slippery. Their first major victim was the Finn Esapekka Lappi (Hyundai), who went off the road in the 5th special and whose car was too damaged to be able to restart.
For Frenchman Sébastien Ogier, 3rd on Thursday evening after the first two specials, the day started very badly with a puncture in the 3rd special, the first of the day. Having fallen to 10th position, he had moved up to 6th at the end of the day but more than 2 min 35 sec behind the leader with motivation that he himself admitted was very dull. Ogier, eight-time world champion, is only competing in a few events this year for Toyota but has already won three (Monte Carlo, Mexico and Kenya). On Saturday, the rally goes to Austria then Germany, before winding between the two countries until the finish on Sunday.
Provisional classification for the Central European Rally, 12th round out of 13 of the World Rally Championship (WRC), at the end of the second day on Friday: 1. Kalle Rovanperä - Jonne Halttunen (FIN/Toyota) 1:13:05.12. Thierry Neuville - Martijn Wydaeghe (BEL/Hyundai) at 36.43. Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (GBR, Toyota) at 47.24. Ott Tänak - Martin Järveoja (EST/M-Sport Ford) at 1:30.45. Takamoto Tatsuta/Aaron Johnston (JPN-IRL/Toyota) at 2:26.86. Sébastien Ogier/Vincent Landais (FRA, Toyota) at 2:35.9...
Main retirements: Esapekka Lappi (Hyundai). ES5 road exit
Special stage winners: Kalle Rovanperä (SS3, SS4, SS5, SS7), Thierry Neuville (SS2, SS8), Elfyn Evans (SS6)