What a Rally Finland that was! We’ve been treated to an entertaining World Rally Championship season, but Finland may have topped the lot.
What a battle, and what a result – not just for Ott Tänak and Hyundai, but the WRC as a whole.
But it wasn’t a joyful occasion for everyone. Here are Colin Clark’s driver ratings from rough eight of the season (and yes, there is a 10/10 rating…)
Kalle Rovanperä 8/10
Rally Finland result: 2nd
Rovanperä was the red hot favorite going into this event and quite rightly so. He’d won five of the last six rounds of the championship and it looked as if the Toyotas very much had the benefit of home advantage here in Finland.
Red hot favorite though didn’t translate into red hot form.
Yes, you can argue that running first on the road on the opening day hindered the brilliant young Finn – but just don’t have that argument with Marcus Grönholm who’ll very happily tell you he won seven Rally Finlands very often opening the road for more than just the opening day.
Rovanperä just wasn’t 100% comfortable at any time throughout the event and that is ultimately why he couldn’t pass the brilliant battling Tänak.
He made mistakes that you’d have to say at times he was very lucky to get away with. Mistakes that have become very few and far between in recent times for young Rovanperä.
The fans came out in their tens of thousands to vociferously cheer on the latest Finnish motorsport superstar and maybe they left Jyväskylä feeling a touch disappointed.
But their time, and Rovanperä’s, will surely come. He didn’t win this one, but it surely won’t be long until he adds the 1000 Lakes to his very growing list of victories.
Elfyn Evans 6/10
Rally Finland result: 4th
By Evans’ own admissions, this performance very much lacked the spark that’s needed to win one of the most demanding events on the calendar.
Last year in an autumnal Finland, Evans was untouchable on his was way to maybe the best win of his career. But that was last year, in a different car, under really quite different circumstances.
You wouldn’t perhaps go as far as saying he’s struggling this year, but Elfyn just hasn’t managed to find that harmonious relationship with the current Rally1 car that he did with the previous WRC car. And it’s showing in his results.
You can’t be even half a percent down on confidence if you are to extract the maximum from this machinery and that is all that Elfyn is lacking. He knows what is needed to get himself back into a position to once again become a regular challenger for victories and I’m sure that’ll come sooner rather than later.
Esapekka Lappi 7/10
Rally Finland result: 3rd
Lappi was remarkably bullish about his prospects here before the event got underway and throughout Friday that self belief and confidence seemed to be very well placed.
It was a little surprising though to see him so at one with car coming off the back of a disappointing Estonia where he just wasn’t able to master the GR Yaris Rally1.
Finland is a place though that requires maximum commitment and on Saturday Lappi just wasn’t able to demonstrate that – and subsequently dropped out of the battle for the lead.
A small lapse in concentration, and pretty substantial roll on the final day gave us all something to marvel at as Lappi nursed his windscreenless and roofless car through the final stage to claim a hard fought and improbable podium.
Should we have expected more from Lappi? I really don’t think so, jumping in and out of the third car makes for a very start stop season and regular seat time is the key to consistency and results in these cars.
He was as ever though tremendously entertaining and great value for money. Lappi is the kind of character we need in the championship and I’d love to see a whole lot more of him in the coming months.
Takamoto Katsuta 6/10
Rally Finland result: 6th
Another Toyota driver who we expected more from but seemed strangely out of sorts throughout the week. Taka-san put his lack of confidence in the Yaris down to the changeable conditions and inconstant grip but it seems odd that these conditions were new to the Jyväskylä local.
A few little scares though were enough to see Taka take a very conservative approach throughout the rally that ultimately delivered his first finish on this event and a decent haul of championship points.
Consistent finishes are the key to a good result in this year’s championship for Katsuta and that is what he is delivering this year. And even if that is at the expense of the ultimate pace we know he has, that has to be a good thing.
Ott Tänak 10/10
Rally Finland result: 1st
Just the ultimate drive from the ultimate warrior. You show me someone who says they predicted this result and I’ll show you a liar.
Absolutely no-one saw this coming, particularly after the woes of Estonia and the words from shakedown.
But it did happen, and that’s almost entirely down to the heroic efforts of Ott Tänak. In some ways, he was humiliated in Estonia. The team gave him a car that was quite clearly not up to the job. But this was redemption, and bucket loads of it at that.
Watching Tänak giving it everything and more through the opening stages was spell binding with a niggling dose of fatalism. It just didn’t seem possible to keep this level of commitment and risk going for 22 stage and 322 kilometers. The way the car was handling suggests ultimate jeopardy and disaster at almost every corner.
Yet somehow Tänak managed to work with the unpredictability of the car to extract every last ounce of power and performance and keep the the uncontrollable Hyundai i20N Rally1 miraculously on the gravel.
Toyota team boss Jari-Matti Latvala compared Tanak’s performance to possibly the best drive we’ve seen in decades – Sébastien Loeb’s dominant clean sweep of age wins wins to take victory in Corsica in 2005.
I don’t agree with that – I think Tänak’s was even better.
Tänak took this rally by the scruff of the neck, he brought out his inner gladiatorial warrior and he won this rally with the the gutsiest, bravest and most brilliant performance I’ve seen in my 20 years of covering the championship.
Thierry Neuville 5/10
Rally Finland result: 5th
If you have serious ambitions to one day become a world champion then you can’t afford to have events that you just give up on. And this event is very much that for Thierry Neuville.
A lot of the battling qualities that we saw abundantly demonstrated by Tänak in Finland have been very ably demonstrated by Neuville over the last few years. He’s a fighter, make no mistake about that.
But just not here in Finland.
Where Tänak was prepared to put everything on the line, Neuville just wasn’t, citing his lack of confidence in how the car was reacting.
You might argue that Neuville did exactly the right thing under the circumstance he found himself in. But it’s difficult to work out how two drivers who appear to be so evenly matched, driving identical cars can have such polar opposite experiences. Neuville finished the best part of two and a half minutes behind Tanak with no particularly problems!
I’d have liked to have seen Neuville giving it a little more of a go, but bringing the car home safely in fifth is a result of sorts in this tremendously challenging season for the Hyundai team.
Oliver Solberg 0/10
Rally Finland result: DNF
Sometimes I really do hate doing these driver ratings and this is very much one of those times. I’ve known young Solberg all his life and as I’ve said many times before. It’s difficult to be hard on young drivers who inevitably make mistakes in their efforts to establish themselves in what can be the most punishingly brutal of sports at times.
But this was a mistake of cataclysmic proportions. I know it’s hard for young Oliver to establish his credentials in a team that is in such turmoil and in a car that is so unpredictable.
But under those clearly understood circumstances this was very much a rally to get through – and Solberg didn’t even get through the first corner.
How team Solberg reacts to this very public setback could well be the making or breaking of this young man.
There is no question that a reset is needed – but how you achieve that in the current seemingly tumultuous Hyundai camp could be very challenging indeed.
What we do know is that Oliver has the very best people around him and that he is a supremely talented young man.
Craig Breen 2/10
Rally Finland result: 32nd
I’m giving Breen one point for sticking to the team orders he was given and one point for his performance on the powerstage – and if that seems a little overly generous than it probably is!
A difficult season just got exponentially more difficult for the undoubtedly talented Irishman. Something just isn’t working for Breen this season and it’s quite perplexing to see possibly the most consistent performer in the championship rapidly becoming the least consistent.
Much like Elfyn Evans, Breen seems to be struggling to master the foibles of his new car but I don’t thing it’s quite as straightforward as that.
Being the one and only driver in the team capable of delivering results is undoubtedly a demanding role to be given and Breen is perhaps struggling without the regular support of another top level team-mate.
I don’t know, sometimes these situation can be as simple to fix as they are complex, and I really do hope that this one is the former because Ypres is up next, and a good result there just took on a whole new level of importance.
Gus Greensmith 5/10
Rally Finland result: 7th
This season started off in such promising fashion for Greensmith yet has failed to really progress the way we all hoped it would.
Finland is a rally that Gus knows well and has enjoyed in the past but once again we failed to see him making that step-forward in pace that has to come if he is to move forward with his competitiveness.
On the plus side, this was a relatively trouble free event for the M-Sport driver who’s maybe building a solid consistent base from which to build his pace from is what’s needed right now.
Adrien Fourmaux 4/10
Rally Finland result: 18th
Fourmaux is driving under the strictest of orders from the team for the reminder of the season and stage kilometers and bringing the car home are non-negotiable objectives.
It must be terribly frustrating for the undoubtedly talented Frenchman but it’s fair to say this situation is entirely of his own making after a bewilderingly reckless stat to the season.
Yes Fourmaux will clearly benefit from stage mileage but he’ll also benefit from dealing with the kind of situations that Finland presented. Character building I think is what it’s called.
Pierre-Louis Loubet 5/10
Rally Finland result: DNF
A real shame that a mechanical issue robbed Loubet of a Finnish in Finland but there are many positives to be taken away from this event.
Once again demonstrated that he can handle the challenge of a Rally1 car and came through without any of the silly errors that we’ve seen all too often in the past.
A good battle with Greensmith will give him confidence in his own abilities to establish himself as a challenger within the M-Sport hierarchy.
Jari Huttunen 5/10
Rally Finland result: 9th
Another of the M-Sport drivers to have his chance to shine this week blunted by mechanical issues throughout the event. For his first outing in the car, Huttunen looked really quite comfortable and self assured.
I’m sure he’d have liked to have shown us more but that really wasn’t possible with the issued he was having to content with.
He did however show enough to suggest that he deserves further outings in top level machinery to demonstrate just where he level is at.