Hyundai’s Ott Tanak took the win in WRC Rally Finland after taking an early lead from Toyota pair of Kalle Rovanpera and Esapekka Lappi.
Ott Tanak kept his cool under increasing pressure from Esapekka Lappi to lead after Friday’s fast-paced opening leg at Secto Rally Finland. The Estonian – twice a winner of this classic gravel fixture – snatched the top spot from early leader and Hyundai colleague Thierry Neuville on the very first stage and clung onto the position all day long.
Set-up frustrations threatened to rattle Tanak’s confidence, especially during the first half of the leg on stages to the north of host city Jyvaskyla. However, aided by some seat-of-the-pants driving, the i20 N star maintained his pace to head Toyota GR Yaris rival Esapekka Lappi by 6.2sec at the day’s midpoint.
Lappi – also a former Finland winner – responded by cranking up the pressure in the afternoon. He stormed to three stage wins in the final loop to whittle down the deficit but was still unable to overturn the charging leader. At close of play, Tänak held the upper hand by a slender 3.8sec.
Elfyn Evans was slow out of the blocks but held onto third overall. He arrived back to service 12.2sec down on Lappi and was embroiled in a tight scrap with Yaris team-mate Kalle Rovanperä, who finished just 1.7sec behind. As championship leader, Rovanpera opened the road and struggled to find traction in some of the loose gravel sections which resulted in some hairy moments. The 21-year-old will start Saturday with a more favourable road position and promised a big push on his home stages.
Craig Breen ended over half a minute back from the lead as M-Sport Ford’s frontrunning driver in fifth overall. An intercom problem in the opening stage was a minor cause for frustration and the Puma driver was at a loss as to why he didn’t have the pace to challenge for stage wins. Takamoto Katsuta was just 3.9sec further back in another Toyota.
A frustrated Thierry Neuville brought his Hyundai home in seventh overall. Like Tanak, he was unhappy with his set-up and struggled to keep the rear end of the car under control. M-Sport youngsters Pierre-Louis Loubet and Gus Greensmith were eighth and ninth overall, while WRC2 leader Teemu Suninen completed the top 10 in a Hyundai i20 N Rally2.
Jari Huttunen’s top-tier debut turned sour when his Puma developed a fuel pressure issue late in the day, dropping him well down the order. Team-mate Adrien Fourmaux was also in trouble and suffered a damaged driveshaft followed by power steering failure which cost almost 20 minutes early in the day. Oliver Solberg was Friday’s big casualty, rolling his Hyundai on the very first corner of the day’s first stage. Roll cage damage means he will not restart.
Ott Tanak is closing in on his third Secto Rally Finland victory after keeping a charging Kalle Rovanpera at bay during Saturday’s penultimate leg. The Estonian driver pushed his Hyundai i20 N to its limits on superfast gravel stages clustered around the Jämsä region, maintaining his position at the head of the field with just four stages remaining.
Wet conditions early in the day weren’t quite to Tanak’s liking, although he arrived back to the mid-leg service in a slightly more comfortable position than when he had left first thing in the morning. He was more confident on the drier, grippier second pass and set a similar pace with championship leader Kalle Rovanpera, who surged through the field to end the day just 8.6sec in arrears.
The competition in Finland is traditionally very tight and, with Sunday’s itinerary adding up to just 43.92km, Rovanpera would need to be on another level to realistically overturn the leader. That said, he’s carried out similar feats already this year. Rovanpera was the driver of the day, taking out five stage wins in his GR Yaris machine.
He was hampered by loose road-opening conditions on Friday which left him down in fourth overall, but the Finn blitzed Toyota team-mates Elfyn Evans and Esapekka Lappi to climb the order. Lappi was feeling frustrated after his car scooped up a stray rock on SS16 which cracked the windscreen, drastically reducing visibility. He had to err on the side of caution over countless blind crests and trailed Rovanpera by 26.8sec to fill the final podium spot.
Evans, too, was in trouble. His Yaris took a heavy compression on the penultimate stage which damaged the rear left upright and suspension strut. Frantic repairs were made using ratchet straps and cable ties and the Welshman nursed the car through Vekkula 2, dropping almost one minute while amazingly still holding his position in fourth overall.
Thierry Neuville’s Hyundai squad fitted new differentials to the car overnight and he enjoyed a drama-free day. The Belgian was a lonely fifth overall – 45.8sec behind Evans but with 42.0sec in hand over Toyota youngster Takamoto Katsuta, who threw away time with a series of spins. M-Sport Ford duo Gus Greensmith and Pierre-Louis Loubet were in a battle of their own for seventh overall, with Loubet setting the early pace before being overtaken by his Puma colleague on SS17.
The pair will start the final leg just 4.2sec apart, while Teemu Suninen and Emil Lindholm rounded off the leaderboard in WRC2-specification cars. Craig Breen was the day’s only frontrunning casualty and retired from fifth overall in the second stage. The Irishman misjudged his line over a high-speed jump, colliding with a rock which ripped a rear wheel from his Puma.
Ott Tanak secured Secto Rally Finland victory on Sunday afternoon to give Hyundai Motorsport its first ever triumph in Jyvaskyla with a precision-perfect drive. The Estonian driver led from the second stage of the rally to finish the four-day gravel road fixture 6.8sec clear of Toyota GR Yaris rival Kalle Rovanpera – clinching his third Finland success in the process.
Tanak found it difficult to be comfortable in his Hyundai i20 N from the get-go, but was still able to produce top times throughout thanks to hard grit and determination. As Friday’s road-opener, Rovanpera was slow out of the blocks but reeled off five stage wins on Saturday to climb from fourth to second overall. He ended the penultimate day just 8.4sec in arrears after slicing the deficit in unpredictable conditions.
Dry conditions ensured further fast-paced action in Sunday’s closing leg, but Tanak was in no mood to compromise. He gave just 1.8sec away to his rival over the four speed tests and stood atop the podium for the first time since Rally Italia Sardegna in June. Rovanpera virtually resigned himself from a maiden home victory after Sunday morning’s first pass of Ruuhimaki, where he and Tanak posted identical times. With a solid haul of points in the bag, the 21-year was unwilling to take any unnecessary risks.
He stretched his championship points lead to 94 after eight of 13 rounds, while his Toyota Gazoo Racing squad ended 88 points clear in the manufacturers’ standings with three Yaris cars in the top four. Home hero Esapekka Lappi completed the podium 1min 13.9sec down, but was lucky to even see the finish after rolling on SS21. He used epoxy resin to patch a crack in his Toyota’s radiator ahead of the last stage and powered through with no front windscreen.
Elfyn Evans was 16.9sec behind and conceded time on Saturday afternoon. Like his team-mate, the Welshman also had to pick up the spanners, bodging together damaged rear suspension using ratchet straps and jubilee clips. It wasn’t Thierry Neuville’s weekend. Set-up frustrations plagued the Hyundai driver and he was never in a position to fight with the leading quartet. He trailed Evans by 40.4sec in fifth overall and slipped to third in the championship behind Tanak.
Yaris hotshot Takamoto Katsuta ended 51.0sec further back to head Gus Greensmith, who was M-Sport Ford’s leading Puma driver in seventh overall. Greensmith scrapped with colleague Pierre-Louis Loubet for most of the event but the Frenchman retired with mechanical woes before the final stage. WRC2 frontrunners Teemu Suninen and Emil Lindholm both secured top 10 results, while Puma debutant Jari Huttunen overcame power steering troubles to round off the leaderboard.
Here’s WRC Rally Finland results: https://www.wrc.com/en/wrcplus/live-timing/
[Note: The above is as per press release with no edits made]