August 20, 2022

The championship leader was third overall behind Evans and Ogier after the morning stage loop, before tire dramas hit his teammates in the afternoon.

Despite the open road, Rovanpera won the final stage of the day to claim his third stage win of the event, giving him a 14.6 second lead over teammate Takamoto Katsuta.

Evans finished the day 22.4 seconds behind third place as the attrition of the tough gravel stage was such that Hyundai’s Ott Tanak managed to reach third place assist at 25.3 seconds, despite losing 36.4 seconds due to a broken gear lever in the morning.

Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta finished the day’s six stages fourth ahead of Thierry Neuville, while Ogier lost 2 minutes 21.6 seconds to replace a punctured left-back, leaving the eight-time world champion sixth overall.

Hyundai’s Oliver Solberg will start seventh overall on Saturday, while Gus Greensmith was the only Ford Puma from the M-Sport team to run in 12th after losing 13 minutes to a right-rear puncture in the morning.

A disastrous day for M-Sport was made worse by Sébastien Loeb, Craig Breen and Adrien Fourmaux, all victims of mechanical retirements. Loeb left the rally in the morning after running out of electric power on a section of road after losing the internal combustion engine in a small fire.

Sebastien Loeb, Isabelle Galmiche, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1

Photo by: Tomasz Kalineski

The afternoon started with a change of lead as Evans’ GR Yaris left-back began to deflate with seven kilometers to go, costing the Welshman 18.7 seconds and the lead of the rally.

Ogier won the stage 4.3 seconds ahead of Katsuta to take an 8.2 second lead over his Japanese teammate.

Rovanpera finished third ahead of Tanak and Neuville, who lost time due to a gearshift problem and a loss of power in the morning respectively. Neuville continued to struggle with the handling of his car during the afternoon.

Stage 5 presented drama as Fourmaux, seventh, suffered a transmission problem putting him out of the day.

The next test saw Ogier extend his rally lead after winning Stage 6 by 0.4 seconds ahead of Katsuta, who continued to build on a strong showing in the morning loop.

Rovanpera resumed his fast pace to edge ahead of Evans in third place overall as Toyota extended its monopoly of the top four spots.

The day got a final twist thanks to the second pass in the famous 31.25 km Kedong test, with deep sand which had hampered the crews in the morning.

Although the teams wondered if it should go ahead given the difficulty of navigating the sand, a decision was made to run the stage.

The lead changed hands again after Ogier punctured a left-back on a 1.5km straight, 18 kilometers into the stage. The wheel change gave Rovanpera the rally lead as the Finn found his way through the sand to win the stage 3.6 seconds behind Neuville.

Tanak was third fastest climbing to third place overall while a cautious Evans lost 21.1 seconds.

“It’s so extreme,” Evans said. “I was careful and I was sure it would be a car graveyard! From my side it was important to try to pass. I lost a lot of time catching dust in the hairpin.”

Drivers were reduced to crawling in places such were the conditions and Katsuta lost even more time after stopping to move around Breen, who got stranded on the side of the road.

Katsuta lost even more time and stopped to negotiate the stranded Breen, which had suffered a puncture in the stage before a mechanical failure knocked it off the road at high speed. But he got a fictitious time from the organizers which lifted him from fourth to second place.

The WRC peloton will return on Saturday to contest 150 km of competitive kilometers spread over six stages.