Evans runner-up as Rovanpera wins Rally Poland

Elfyn Evans and co-driver Scott Martin's GR Yaris Rally1 at Rally Poland
Elfyn Evans and co-driver Scott Martin were previously runners-up at Rally Sweden and Rally Croatia in 2024 [Getty Images]

Elfyn Evans was runner-up for the third time this season as late entry Kalle Rovanpera won Rally Poland, finishing 28.3 seconds ahead of his Toyota team-mate.

Finland's Rovanpera - the 2023 world champion - is driving part-time this season and was a last-minute replacement in Poland after Toyota's Sebastien Ogier crashed during pre-event reconnaissance.

Evans collected 17 points over the weekend to shave three off his deficit on current World Rally Championship (WRC) leader Thierry Neuville, who finished fourth in Poland.

However, Evans would have reduced that gap further had the Welshman not punctured on the final stage of the rally to miss out on powerstage bonus points.

"We hit a rock on the line in an entry to a corner, it was too late before we missed it but there you go," said a disappointed Evans.

Belgian Neuville won the powerstage to add five points for a total rally haul of 14. He now leads by 15 points from Evans who has moved clear into second place, having started round seven of 13 in third, level on points behind Ott Tanak.

Rovanpera has moved up to sixth after collecting 27 points from only his fourth rally of the year.

“It’s quite an amazing week. Not so normal,” said Rovanpera.

“I have to say, we have been working quite hard, I’m really feeling tired now.

“I think the best thing is we came here and was not a bad idea to come. For sure we helped the team a lot, we took some really good points for the teams’ championship, so we didn’t waste our time.”

Evans hopes of challenging for his first victory of the 2024 calendar were hit on Saturday's stage 13, losing time when the right-rear tire on his GR Yaris Rally1 delaminated and damaged the surrounding bodywork.

He was not the only driver to suffer misfortune in Poland.

Tanak had the race lead when he was forced to retire on Friday, after a deer jumped directly in front of his Hyundai while traveling at 117mph, the collision causing major damage to the front of his car.

Hyundai's Andreas Mikkelsen’s challenge for a first WRC win in almost eight years ended with a puncture after he clipped a bank on Sunday’s opening stage while running second ahead of Evans.

And Ireland's Josh McErlean's WRC2 bid was dented when he hit a bale perched against a tree, ripping the right-rear wheel off his Skoda Fabia RS Rally2.

There were also spectator problems for Rally Poland which was reinstated for 2024, seven years after it was removed from the championship for failing to reach required safety protocols.

After stage three and stage seven were both abandoned because of fans standing in dangerous places, Evans said: “It is very annoying, but I don’t also know what anybody can do.

"These stages are not thrown out for fun, it’s a pretty serious thing cancelling a stage – but they also have a responsibility to us and to everybody watching."

Round eight of the series is Rally Latvia, from 18 to 21 July.

FIA World Rally Championship standings after Rally Poland

1. Thierry Neuville (Belgium) Hyundai, 136 points

2. Elfyn Evans (Great Britain) Toyota, 121 points

3. Ott Tanak (Estonia) Hyundai, 115 points

4. Sebastien Ogier (France) Toyota, 92 points

5. Adrien Fourmaux (France) Ford, 91 points

6. Kalle Rovanpera (Finland) Toyota, 63 points