David Evans: What makes Finland so frightening

A day watching Elfyn Evans up close was a demonstration of what makes Finland so infectious


Three months out of the car hadn’t prepared Sébastien Ogier for what he’d just done. Not nearly. France… welcome to Finland.

I’m taking you back two years, back to the then six-time world champion’s first run in a Toyota Yaris WRC after winning Rally México, 2020. The COVID thing had stepped in and stopped everything. But in the middle of June, Toyota Gazoo Racing had clearance to test again.

And, after a multitude of tests of a different nature – not to mention more form filling that you can shake a stick at – DirtFish boarded a big jet plane for the first time in three months to film that test.

South-west of Jyväskylä, close to Yijalantie, is a road pretty much as fearsome as they come. Off the line, it’s a fast left that’s not even worth lifting for (even though it’s blind on entry and already chopped up into a horrible bunch of ruts). Then it gets faster. And faster.

And when it can’t get any faster, it offers airtime. Lots of it. Two jumps in the middle stand out. The drop-away leads directly into the next one.

Get the first one wrong and you do what Alexey Lukyanuk did on the second on in 2015. Remember that? Lukyanuk was testing a Ford Fiesta RS WRC days before the start of what should have been his World Rally Car debut.

Too quick over the first jump, his line went awry into the second and he stacked one of M-Sport’s finest firmly into the trees.

It’s a serious bit of road.

Ogier’s done his first couple of runs and he’s back for a chat.

“The first run was strange,” Ogier admitted to DirtFish. “Honestly, on that kind of road you need to be in the rhythm to enjoy it. The first one felt quite fast…”

He was wider-eyed than usual.

In the World Rally Championship, Finland is pretty much unique in its ability to spook drivers. It’s not often you hear them talk of fear, but there’s definitely an element of that in this part of the world.

A couple of years down the road and we’re back on the same start line. And back with Toyota, this time for Elfyn Evans’ Monday test ahead of Thursday’s start.

A whole bunch of busyness has kept me off the stages for too long through the first half of the season, so I haven’t seen too much of the Rally1 generation yet. Even more reason to make the trip onto the test stage and into those two jumps.


Much as these roads can scare the world’s best, they also make you understand why the likes of Ogier and Evans do what they do. And the rest of us just dream about it.

The corner before the first drop-away jump had looked well worthy of a confidence lift at the very least. Wrong.

The out-of-sight GR Yaris Rally1 is on the limiter in top, shrieking through the woods with an unflinching Welsh right foot buried.

Evans and co-driver Scott Martin come into sight sideways through the right-hander. The lack of a lift pulls the car straight before an immediate dab of the brakes, just to knock some speed off before the first jump.

It’s a sight to behold, genuine poetry in motion

Fly. Land. Go.

Soon as the Yaris touches mother earth, Evans has worked it to the right to slice through the apex of an eye-wateringly quick left-hander over the second jump. Landing adjacent to a Lukyanuk-made hole in the trees, the Toyotas out of there, hurling itself at the next top-gear curve.

All of that came and went at over 100mph.

It’s beyond breath-taking. The raw speed is always impressive and the amount of air taken (on the return journey, with more of a kick on the lip they’re passing us at head height) is mighty. But this time it’s the ultimate efficiency of the Yaris that catches the attention.


Evans is asking the car to do so much at the same time. At maximum velocity, he’s loading the steering, the suspension and the aero, ignoring the fact that the car’s dropped a wheel into a 30cm deep rut and then bottomed out on a middle-of-the-road rock. None of that matters. None of that’s even noticed.

It’s a sight to behold, genuine poetry in motion.

Hayden Paddon warmed us up with a stunner of a run through Palsankylä on Saturday and Evans took that to the next level on Monday.

From the outside looking in, these guys remain very much on another level.

What on earth will Tuesday bring?

Words:David Evans