Tanak and Hyundai trio on top in Estonia on Saturday morning

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Ott Tanak leads on home soil a Hyundai 1-2-3 as the World Rally Championship roared back into action on Rally Estonia with five stages on Saturday morning.

Tänak came into the event as the favourite for victory but it was Toyota’s 19-year Kalle Rovanperä who was quickest in SS2 to take the lead of a WRC round for the first time. But the Finn then lost around half a minute to Tänak in SS3 when he finished the stage with a damaged tyre, which also caused him to lose some of the aerodynamic bodywork on his car.

Tänak was quickest in stages three and four to open up a lead over his team-mate Craig Breen, while Thierry Neuville also moved up into the top three. Neuville won SS6 and finished the morning 4.3 seconds behind Breen and 11.1 seconds away from Tänak.

Jointly leading the rally after SS1 on Friday following a colourful opening ceremony at Raadi airfield in Tartu, Sébastien Ogier dropped to fifth opening the road on the morning’s first stage, but improved his pace as the loop wore on and claimed a fastest time on SS6 to jump ahead of Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans for fourth overall. The recovering Rovanperä was second fastest in the final two stages of the loop and sits sixth just ahead of fellow Toyota youngster Takamoto Katsuta.

M-Sport Ford drivers Esapekka Lappi and Teemu Suninen sit eighth and ninth, with Lappi losing time when he overshot a junction in SS6. Pierre-Louis Loubet made a similar error in the very same place but sits 10th on his top-class debut in a Hyundai, ahead of M-Sport’s Gus Greensmith.

Mads Østberg leads WRC2 in his Citroën following an eventful morning in the category, which included a puncture for the Norwegian driver. He is 16.5 seconds ahead of his nearest rival Nikolay Gryazin, who escaped a high-speed spin in SS2 in his Hyundai. Ahead of Østberg overall are the top three drivers in WRC3, where Oliver Solberg is on top in front of local ace Egon Kaur and Poland’s Kajetan Kajetanowicz.

It is an Estonian one-two in Junior WRC, with category debutant Robert Virves leading Ken Torn by 1.3s. Championship leader Tom Kristensson was on top after SS2, only to retire following a heavy landing on the following stage.