Toyota’s Ott Tanak with co-driver Martin Jarveoja took a dominant win in FIA World Rally Championship’s Rally Finland to start the second half in the 2018 season on a fine note.
The Estonian started the proceedings on Friday with wins in the first two stages of the rally to create a sound buffer already between him and his rivals. He continued on his charge but Citroen’s Mads Ostberg (co-driver Torstein Eriksen) was not far behind.
The Norwegian, in fact, ate up Tanak’s lead by SS6 to become the rally’s new leader. But Tanak held on as he was back into the lead in SS9 and ended the day with a 5.8s advantage over Ostberg after wins in SS5, SS7, SS9 and SS10.
Ostberg won SS4 and SS6 in the period. The two though already had a huge buffer on third placed Toyota’s Jari-Matti Latvala (co-driver Miikka Anttila). While the lead changed on Friday, but Saturday was Tanak all the way.
The Estonian left no quarter to slip up to win SS12, SS13, SS14, SS15 and SS16 to dominate the proceedings and keep his top spot from Ostberg, who fell a huge 39s behind Tanak – into the clutched of Latvala, who was only 5.4s behind.
It wasn’t straightforward for Tanak though as he did face steering issues in the final three stages but saw-through the issues to finish with a comfortable lead. For Ostberg, a spare wheel proved costly as the extra weight meant he didn’t have the pace to catch Tanak.
Latvala held his place but the man on the charge was Toyota’s Esapekka Lappi (co-driver Janne Ferm) as the Finn moved himself from eighth on Friday to fourth on Saturday after wins in SS17, SS18 and SS19.
The final day was just for Tanak to see-through the remaining four stages which he did it at ease – also winning the Power Stage – to win the Rally Finland by 32.7s margin over Ostberg. This is his and Toyota’s second win this season after Rally Argentina.
Meanwhile, the Norwegian kept second place by winning SS20 in a good show for Citroen to score his first podium of the season. He had it tough from Latvala in the end after the Finn got wins in SS21 and SS22 but fell shot by 2.8s to be third.
It was heartbreak for Lappi who crashed out from his home event in the morning’s first stage itself. This helped Hyundai’s Hayden Paddon (co-driver Sebastian Marshall) to finish fourth where he ran mostly due to tyre wear problems.
Title challenge M-Sport Ford Fiesta’s Sebastien Ogier (co-driver Julien Ingrassia) had a tough outing to eventually end up fifth despite help from teammates Elfyn Evans (co-driver Daniel Barritt) on Friday and Teemu Suninen (co-driver Mikko Markkula) on Saturday.
Both the drivers followed SS11 winner Ogier in the order with Suninen in sixth and Evans seventh but comfortably ahead of Citroen’s Craig Breen (co-driver Scott Martin) and championship leader Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville (co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul).
The Irish driver struggled in his Citroen but still won SS8 while the Belgian’s lack of grip continued on as he fought in the fag end of the Top 10 which was completed by Hyundai’s Andreas Mikkelsen (co-driver Anders Jaeger-Synnevaag).
Despite the lowly position, Neuville heads the standings with 153 points to Ogier’s 132, but Tanak has improved to third with 107. Hyundai leads the manufacturers’ standings with 228 points to M-Sport’s 202 as Toyota has closed up in third with 201.
Meanwhile, the WRC2 category saw a supreme fight as well with local drivers Eerik Pietarinen (co-driver Juhana Raitanen) and Toni Gardemeister (with co-driver Antti Linnaketo) were 1 and 2 in their Skoda and Hyundai respectively.
In only his first rally this season, Peitarinen made the most of the circumstances when some of the front-runners faced troubles to win the category with a comfortable lead. Gus Greensmith (co-driver Craig Parry) rounded out the Top 3 in the Ford.