Kalle Rovanpera says he consciously attacked when heavy rain hit Friday’s final stage of Rally Estonia to claim the lead, as he knew conditions would become worse for his rivals.
The Toyota driver managed to overturn a 10.9s deficit to Toyota team-mate and long-time rally leader Elfyn Evans on the day's final stage as wet weather wreaked late drama.
Rovanpera emerged from Stage 9 with the stage win and an 11.7s rally lead over Evans heading into Saturday, as the the Welshman struggled in the worsening wet conditions.
Having been forced to open the roads, virtue of his championship-leading position, Rovanpera turned this into an advantage as the steady rain he faced became progressively heavier for his rivals running later.
Confident the conditions would become worse, the 21-year-old Finn actively pushed harder on the slippery gravel.
“This morning the conditions were quite dry, so there was a lot of cleaning for us, but I think we managed quite well and we didn’t lose too much time,” said Rovanpera. “I think I did a good job during the day opening the road, and also in the afternoon we had good times.
“Of course, the weather on the last stage was on our side. In the last one it was heavy rain and I knew it was not going to get any better for the guys behind, so I pushed a lot so we could get the lead.
“Elfyn has been really fast the whole day, and now that we will be close together in the road order we will try to do our best to fight, but we also need to think about the points for the championship.”
Evans felt he was unlucky to suffer the conditions he faced on Stage 9 having briefly held a 19.9s lead over Rovanpera after winning five of the day’s eight stages.
Unseen by the television cameras, the 2020 and 2021 WRC runner-up suffered a wild moment at the start of the test when the heavy rain struck, which contributed in losing 22.6s to Rovanpera.
“It's not been a bad day," said Evans. "This morning was very good, I was happy with the feeling inside the car and everything was working really well.
“This afternoon it was a bit more difficult with the conditions changing all the time, so it was hard to be perfect and easy to be a little bit too careful at times.
“We had very bad conditions in the last one, which was obviously less than ideal for us. Obviously the conditions were pretty horrific.
“There was lots of aquaplaning at the start of the stage and we had a fair moment, and let’s say I was a bit more careful after that. It was a bit of a surprise that the conditions were so bad.
“But there’s a long way to go and it’s all to play for still, so let’s see what tomorrow brings.”