Ott Tänak leads Rally Estonia by 11.7 seconds ahead of Hyundai teammate Craig Breen as the FIA World Rally Championship completed its first full day of action in almost six months.
Tänak hit the front in his home event after taking the stage three victory and didn’t look back throughout the remainder of Saturday, despite the best efforts of Breen later in the day.
The Irishman won his first two WRC stages as a Hyundai driver in the afternoon and did reduce the 13.8 seconds advantage Tänak had after the end of stage nine.
Behind the leading duo is Sebastien Ogier, who was one of several drivers to suffer problems on a very dramatic opening afternoon test after his rear left tyre came off its rim. He also admitted to not pushing to his absolute limit in the day’s remaining stages as a result.
Stage seven saw both him and Toyota teammate Elfyn Evans suffer deflations to rear tyres – the Welshman suffered a blowout while on a tarmac section but made it to the end of the stage without dropping a lot of time – while things were even worse for third at the time Thierry Neuville.
The Belgian had been closing in on Breen ahead, but ran wide at a fast left-hander and ended up clipping something in long grass on the outside of the corner and that ripped off his rear right suspension. He made it to the end of the stage but retired on the road section afterwards with the car moving on three wheels.
Evans slipped down to fifth on the second pass through Elva after losing out to Kalle Rovanperä. The young Finn won the opening stage of the day before a puncture on the following test saw him drop down the leaderboard.
He made a fine recovery drive in the afternoon however, which sees him 6.2 seconds behind Ogier going into Sunday. This gap was reduced late on Saturday after the six-time champion suffered a stall on the final stage, as well as Rovanperä winning the test.
A solid sixth is Toyota development driver Takamoto Katsuta as he set several competitive times throughout Saturday. The Japanese driver had a relatively trouble-free day and is in front of M-Sport duo Esapekka Lappi and Teemu Suninen.
Both of the Ford Fiesta drivers admitted to struggling with having the outright pace of their rivals ahead, and Lappi’s day was made worse after an overshoot on stage six cost him more time.
Pierre Louis-Loubet did the same as Lappi,but clipped a concrete block that did no more than drop him a few seconds and cause some cosmetic damage to the i20 Coupe WRC in his first full day of top-level WRC action. Gus Greemsith completes the top 10 overall.
Mads Østberg leads the WRC2 class by 37.8 seconds ahead of Nikolay Gryazin and Adrien Fourmaux. The Norwegian suffered a puncture on stage four where he lost nearly half a minute to his rivals, but recovered throughout the rest of the day.
Ole Christian Vieby had been leading the class after the opening stage on Saturday, but suffered a broken driveshaft on his Hyundai i20 Rally2 also on stage three and was forced to retire from the remainder of the day.
Punctures were a common theme throughout the whole field, and Fourmaux was another man to suffer from one, this time on stage six. He dropped from second to fourth in class as a result, but got back ahead of Pontus Tidemand on the first stage after lunchtime service.
WRC3 is being led by Oliver Solberg, who won six of the ten stages throughout Saturday. It wasn’t as plain sailing as it sounds however after he was another driver to suffer a puncture, this time on stage eight, but fortunetley it happened near the end of the Kanepi test.
17.8 seconds behind is home driver Egon Kaur who incredibly in his first ever appearance in a Skoda Fabia Rally 2 is second in the class. He has an 11.1 seconds advantage over Kajetan Kajetanowicz in third.
Finally the FIA Junior World Rally Championship at the end of the first full day of action is being led by another Estonian driver in the form of Robert Virves.
Just 11.2 seconds split him and the more experienced Martins Sesks with Friday overnight leader Sami Pajari in third – over two minutes in front of British driver Ruairi Bell, who this weekend has reigning British Rally Champion Matt Edwards alongside him in the co-drivers seat.