The 2019 world champion put in an impeccable display, while battling his i20 N, winning two of the four completed stages and opening a skinny 6.2 lead on the Lappi.
Lappi, aided by a more convenient road location, took the fight to Tanak from the start leading Toyota’s freight. The Finn won the third stage but lost 0.9s to his opponent in the final morning test.
Despite being denied a first on the road, championship leader Kali Rovanpera dropped by just 15.3 seconds to finish fifth ahead of Toyota. Takamoto Katsuta And the leader overnight Thierry Nouvel (Hyundai).
Although completely unsatisfied with the handling of his car, Tanak pressed hard to win the first stage in the woods and move up to the top of the rally.
Labe emerged as his closest competitor to finish the stage in 2.7 seconds, while M-Sport’s Bryn clocked the third-fastest time ahead of Toyota’s Evans and Adrian Formo (M Sport).
Rally favorite Rovanpera fell by 6.3secs to Tanak during the stage after revealing that there was more clean up than he had expected as he was first on the road.
Rovanpera’s Toyota teammate Katsuta lost the ground to 360 degrees, while Loubet was lucky to finish the match after touching a rock at the top of the corner.
However, there was a more serious drama of Oliver Solberg After his i20 N cut off his left hand which resulted in a severe collision that damaged the roll cage. The emotional Solberg made it clear he had no chance of saving the car, which is now retired from the event.
Esapekka Lappi, Janne Ferm, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1
Photography: Toyota Racing
Lappe once again marked his strong start to the day by defeating Tanak by 0.3 seconds to win the third stage.
Brien finished third in the general standings to retain fourth place behind Evans, who was 0.2sec slower than Rovanpera, as the Finn finished the opening stage with two stages 10.8secs behind leader Tanak in fifth.
There was drama for M-Sport’s Fourmaux when the Frenchman cut a boulder into a ditch with the right of the Ford Puma’s front car, forcing the 27-year-old to stop seven kilometers into the stage.
Fourmaux and partner Alexandre Coria were able to compete in the repair using cable ties to allow them to slowly complete the stage, but lost nearly 17 minutes in the process. The couple had been sitting at seven before the accident.
Tanak’s impressive charge on the uncomfortable i20 N continued into stage 4 as the Estonian responded to Lappe with a second stage victory to extend his lead to 5.4s. This time only 0.4 seconds separated the duo in the test.
Evans put in a clean run for the third best time, but the Welshman was not entirely comfortable. Bryn also maintained his strong start to keep up with Evans to stay in the fight at the front, while Rovanpera was just 2.5sec away.
On top of that, Loubet lost some time to stop at the start of the stage while teammate Fourmaux suffered more ordeals when a power-steering leak on his Puma cost him more time.
Fortunately, Fourmaux avoided wasting more time when organizers canceled stage five due to safety concerns about the number of spectators lining the roads.
Katsuta won the final stage of the episode, a second pass during Thursday night’s super special, and passed Nouvel and Tanak by 0.1 second. Rookie Huttunen scored the fourth fastest time, while Rovanpera lost 2.1 seconds in a short 3.48 km blast.
WRC teams will go through four more stages to complete Friday’s work.