Ott Tanak secured the FIA WEC Ypres Rally from Elfyn Evans and Esapekka Lappi as points leader Kalle Rovanpera has an early crash.


Elfyn Evans held off Ott Tänak to lead Ypres Rally Belgium after a soul-stirring opening loop in which Kalle Rovanperä crashed out of contention. The Welshman inherited the lead on SS2 when Toyota GR Yaris team-mate Rovanperä – winner of the first stage – exited in dramatic fashion.

Rovanperä understeered into a drainage ditch on the outside of a left-hand corner which pitched the car into a spectacular barrel roll. While he and co-driver Jonne Halttunen emerged unscathed, their hopes of sealing the title this week are over.  Evans, armed with a slight advantage obtained during the opener, was left duelling with Hyundai Motorsport’s Tänak. Neither felt 100 per cent comfortable on the fast and narrow Flanders farm lanes and there was little to split the pair.

Tänak was aided by a cleaner surface from first on the road and whittled his rival’s advantage down to just six-tenths of a second by the penultimate test. Evans then responded by shading the Estonian at Langemark to carry a 2.3sec buffer into the afternoon’s loop of four repeated stages. Local favourite Thierry Neuville completed the top three 6.5sec further back after a shaky start in his Hyundai. An overshoot in SS1 cost the Belgian around 10 seconds and, despite winning a stage, he lacked confidence.

Yaris man Esapekka Lappi trailed Neuville by 12.4sec in fourth overall. He was the last lucky driver to complete the final stage in dry conditions and seized the position from Adrien Fourmaux, who dropped over one minute while tiptoeing through the standing water. Just 4.2sec behind in fifth overall was a frustrated Craig Breen, who also overshot in the first test. He promised big set-up changes at the mid-leg service and headed M-Sport Ford Puma team-mate Gus Greensmith by 32.8sec.

Oliver Solberg took on a conservative approach off the back of his Finland retirement to hold seventh in front of Fourmaux, while WRC2 frontrunners Andreas Mikkelsen and Yohan Rossel completed the leaderboard. Takamoto Katsuta languishes more than four minutes off the pace after nursing a transmission issue on his Yaris. At times, the Japanese driver had to switch to EV mode to make it back to service.


Ott Tänak inherited a surprise lead at Ypres Rally Belgium when long-time leader Thierry Neuville crashed into retirement on Saturday afternoon. The Hyundai i20 N driver will carry an 8.2sec advantage over Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Elfyn Evans into Sunday’s final leg after team-mate Thierry Neuville’s rally unravelled in the penultimate stage of the day.

Tänak, driving a Hyundai i20 N, briefly took charge after the opening Reninge test but was quickly swept aside by team-mate Neuville as a rear differential issue hampered his progress during the morning.  After pulling 17.2sec clear of his colleague, Neuville looked all but set for a repeat victory at his home WRC round – but the rally was turned on its head 6.4km into the Wijtschate stage when the Belgian understeered into a deep ditch on the outside of a left-hand corner.

Spectators were quickly on scene to extract the car but Neuville pulled over just 1.1km down the road with terminal damage. His demise means Tänak is on course for his second-consecutive victory, having triumphed just a few weeks ago at Secto Rally Finland. Back at service, Neuville explained he was simply caught out by a patch of loose gravel which had been pulled onto the road after his route note crew had driven through.

Evans was able to close in on Tänak during the morning loop but lost ground later in the day once his rival had made changes at the mid-leg service. He ended more than one minute clear of GR Yaris team-mate Esapekka Lappi, who filled the final podium spot after a drama-free day.  Almost two minutes further back in fourth overall was Hyundai pilot Oliver Solberg. The young Swede was locked into a dicing duel with M-Sport Ford Puma hotshot Adrien Fourmaux, who ended 14.3sec behind after being lumbered with a 20sec time penalty for arriving late to the start of SS15.

Both drivers moved up the order early in the day when Craig Breen, who had been running fifth, rolled his Puma into retirement after overcooking a left-hander at Dikkebus. After plummeting down the order with a transmission fault on Friday, Takamoto Katsuta fought back to take sixth overall. It wasn’t an easy day for the 29-year-old as a hybrid unit issue left his Yaris intermittently lacking extra boost.

WRC2 cars accounted for the rest of the field. Category leader Stéphane Lefebvre brought his Citroën C3 Rally2 home seventh overall ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen, Yohan Rossel and Grégoire Munster. Gus Greensmith was more than 18 minutes adrift of the leaders after haemorrhaging time in the morning. The Briton’s Puma left the road on SS10 and he had to limp through two stages with a broken rear brake disc.


Ott Tänak stormed to Ypres Rally Belgium victory on Sunday afternoon to seal back-to-back FIA World Rally Championship wins. The Estonian driver inherited the top spot late on the penultimate day when Hyundai i20 N team-mate and long-time leader Thierry Neuville understeered off the road and into a ditch, shattering the Belgian’s hopes of a repeat home win.

Tänak – winner of Secto Rally Finland earlier this month – carried an 8.2sec buffer over Elfyn Evans into Sunday’s final leg, which comprised four short and sharp asphalt speed tests in the Flanders region. Toyota GR Yaris star Evans was not willing to give up without a fight. He flew to fastest times on the two opening stages, but was still unable to make any major gains on the leader.

It was a similar story in the afternoon and, despite outpacing his rival by 2.2sec in the finale, the Welshman was unable to overhaul Tänak, who took the spoils by 5.0sec. Tänak’s success means he now trails championship leader Kalle Rovanperä – who rolled his Yaris out of contention on Friday morning – by 72 points. The 21-year-old Finn salvaged five Wolf Power Stage bonus points and remains on track to become the youngest WRC champion in history.

The manufacturers’ championship situation remains unchanged, with Tänak’s Hyundai  Motorsport squad still 88 points adrift of leaders Toyota Gazoo Racing. For Evans, it was a case of what could have been. He gave away valuable seconds on Friday when a slow puncture forced him to run a wet weather tyre in dry conditions. He was also lumbered with a 10sec time penalty for arriving late to SS8. Without that, the outcome could have been different.

Esapekka Lappi made it two GR Yaris cars on the podium – securing a lonely third at the end of a trouble-free weekend where a poor tyre choice on Friday was the only real bump in the road. He trailed Evans by 1min 36.6sec but held a massive 1min 46.9sec advantage over fourth-placed Hyundai youngster Oliver Solberg, who netted a career-best result to banish all memories of his early retirement last time out.

Solberg was initially locked into a tight scrap with M-Sport Ford’s Adrien Fourmaux. However, the Puma driver crashed out in the penultimate stage, enabling those behind to gain a position.  Over two minutes back was Takamoto Katsuta, who continued his consistent run of form to take fifth overall in another Yaris car. Although transmission and hybrid unit faults plagued the Japanese driver, he has now finished inside the top six at every round since Sweden in February. The rest of the leaderboard comprised Rally2 cars, with WRC2 victor Stéphane Lefebvre leading the charge ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen, Yohan Rossel and Chris Ingram.

Here’s WRC Ypres Rally results:

[Note: The above is as per press release with no edits made]