Rovanpera closes in on maiden WRC win in Estonia

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Leaders Kalle Rovanpera and co-driver Jonne Halttunen were flying in their Toyota during the Rally of Estonia on Saturday
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Toyota's Kalle Rovanpera edged closer to a first-ever WRC victory as he stretched his lead in the Estonia Rally over Craig Breen to 50 seconds after Saturday's eight stages.

Finn Rovanpera, 20, who lives in Estonia, has been in the lead since the fourth stage on Friday and had an 8.5sec advantage that evening.

He and Breen, in a Hyundai, are eyeing their first world championship victory with Rovapera in sight of becoming the youngest winner ever in the WRC.

Last year he was the youngest driver to reach the podium when he finished third in Sweden and now he has the chance to go one better than another Finn, Jari-Matti Latvala, now his boss at Toyota, who was 22 when he won his inaugural victory in Sweden in 2008.

Rovapera set the tone for the day as he took Saturday's opening stage by 10.7sec.

"We had prepared well for this special because we knew that it could make big differences. It was a great effort," he said.

"Yesterday the gap was small and we increased it a lot, so it's a great day. It wasn't easy but it makes things easier for tomorrow."

Breen, 31, made his debut in WRC in 2009 but has only once made it on to the podium, in Finland in 2016.

"We have completed the day relatively unscathed, and I think we can be happy with what we’ve achieved," said the Irishman.

"Given our experience, it was always going to be tough, but we've tried to feel more comfortable in the car.

"It still feels a bit alien at times, and we haven't been able to let it go full banzai."

Belgian Thierry Neuville was third 1min 20sec behind and French world champion Sebastien Ogier trailed by a further 18 seconds.

Ogier's Toyota teammate Elfyn Evans is fifth, just over two minutes behind the leader.

Home hope Ott Tanak returned to the wheel after temporarily abandoning on Friday following three punctures.

Four-time former race winner Tanak, won six of Saturday's stages after Rovanpera claimed the opener. However, he remains in 19th, over an hour behind the Finn.

Standings after 18 special stages

1. Kalle Rovanpera/Jonne Halttunen (FIN/Toyota) 2hr 17:46.8, 2. Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (IRL/Hyundai) at 50.7sec, 3. Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (BEL/Hyundai) 1:20.9, 4. Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (FRA/Toyota) 1:38.8, 5. Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (GBR/Toyota) 2:02.2

Stage winners: Rovanpera 8 (SS1, SS3, SS4, SS5, SS6, SS7, SS9, SS10), Tanak 7 (SS2, SS11, SS12, SS13, SS14, SS15, SS16), Breen 2 (SS3, SS8), Neuville 1 (SS17), Ogier 1 (SS18)

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