Juho Hänninen won this week’s Arctic Lapland Rally in Finland, which has ended up in the position of warm-up event for the World Rally Championship’s first trip to the Arctic circle.
Five stages were scheduled to run on each day of the rally, although the first and fifth of Friday were canceled.
It was Hänninen who won the 14.6-mile Aittajärvi-Europcar test that then opened the rally instead in his Toyota Yaris WRC, going 9.5 seconds faster than next best driver Juha Salo in a Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo. It was mostly Rally2 cars fighting for the positions immediately below Hänninen, with Ford Fiesta WRC-driving Kimmo Kurkela sixth fastest and Mercedes-AMG Formula 1 driver Valtteri Bottas ninth quickest in a Citroën DS3 WRC.
A similar story ran through the next two stages of the day, with Hänninen winning both by some margin and ending the first leg with 52.1s in hand over the Škoda-driving Teemu Asunmaa, trying out Pirelli’s new studded winter rally tire. Team MRF’s Emil Lindholm was 4.6s back in another Škoda, with Salo a further 6.3s back.
In fifth and sixth were Hyundai juniors Ole Christian Veiby and Oliver Solberg, who both struggled on the Jyrhämäjärvi-Lapin Safarit stage that ended the day. Veiby had a late off, while Solberg described his first competitive runs in a Hyundai i20 R5 as “not good at all”.
Solberg’s second day as a Hyundai rally driver started off stronger, coming second to Hänninen on the 26.5-mile Siikakämä-Hanaa test.
The next stage was then canceled, but Solberg’s day got even better when action resumed as he beat Hänninen to victory on the 15.5-mile Heinunkierto stage. The second-generation driver then moved into the podium positions over the 20.2 miles of the Sarriojärvi stage with another second place to Hänninen, as Bottas moved past Veiby for sixth in the overall classification.
Victory was all but assured for Hänninen going into the final 19.6 miles of competition, and Solberg had 15.7s to make up on Asunmaa for second place. Could he do it in a car, and on a surface, that was mostly new to him?
On the Ristilampi-Pohjanhovi stage he almost did it, once again being the fastest Rally2 driver but finishing the rally 0.9s down on Asunmaa and 2m29.2s down on Hänninen.
Salo and Lindholm put their Škodas in fourth and fifth, with Bottas holding onto sixth ahead of Kurkela and saying he “learned a lot about rallying” ahead of a rumoured entry into the rally’s WRC counterpart. Juuso Metsälä (Škoda), Rihu Tahko (Hyundai) and Niclas Grönholm (Volkswagen) rounded out the top 10.
Veiby ended up sinking to 20th after dropping almost six minutes on the final stage due to a stuck throttle.
1 Juho Hänninen/Miika Teiskonen (Toyota) 1h43m27.4s
2 Teemu Asunmaa/Marko Salminen (Škoda) +2m29.2s
3 Oliver Solberg/Aaron Johnston (Hyundai) +2m30.1s
4 Juha Salo/Mikko Markkula (Škoda) +2m51.2s
5 Emil Lindholm/Mikael Korhonen (Škoda) +3m03.2s
6 Valtteri Bottas/Timo Rautiainen (Citroën) +3m48.3s
7 Kimmo Kurkela/Reeta Hämäläinen (Ford) +4m06.6s
8 Juuso Metsälä/Matti Kangas (Škoda) +6m18.2s
9 Riku Tahko/Markus Soininen (Hyundai) +7m48.3s
10 Niclas Grönholm/Antti Linnaketo (Volkswagen) +7m51.3s