Elfyn Evans has taken a major stride towards 2021 Rally Finland victory, extending his lead over Ott Tänak into double figures with an emphatic stage win on the famous Ruuhimäki test.
Evans was beaten by Tänak on Sunday’s opener, albeit by just 0.4 seconds, to have his overall lead shaved to 8.7 seconds. But the Toyota driver was imperious on SS17, destroying Tänak by 3.5s to open up a 12.2s advantage at the head of the field.
“Yeah, it was alright,” Evans said, downplaying his achievement.
“It just felt really clean to be honest. Nothing too, too wild. They’re tricky enough these last two so still work to do.”
Tänak was a clear second fastest, but even before learning how much time Evans had taken out of him, he was sounding a touch defeated.
Asked if he could catch Evans, Tänak sniggered and said: “By pure driving for sure not. This one has lots of technical sections as well, it’s such a pain in the a** to drive but I try, I try hard.”
The pace of the top two was unsurprisingly a step up on the rest. Third-placed Craig Breen managed the third best time on Ruuhimäki, 2.2s shy of team-mate Tänak’s effort but 0.9s faster than fourth placed Esapekka Lappi.
Keeping up the uniform, fifth-placed Sébastien Ogier was also fifth fastest with Takamoto Katsuta – running first on the road after retiring on Saturday – setting the sixth best time.
Kalle Rovanperä continued his sedate pace on Sunday, wishing to protect himself after hurting his back in the head-on impact that ended his Rally Finland on Saturday
“It feels fine when I drive slowly but there is no chance I will try anything on the powerstage,” he said, with Ruuhimäki repeated later on as the powerstage.
“The jumps are just too big, I don’t want to risk anything to hurt my back more. It’s a shame for all the fans I can’t drive more but at least we are here.”
Adrien Fourmaux struggled with rear-grip in his Ford Fiesta WRC on Sunday’s opener but felt “it was definitely better” on SS17.
He got the better of M-Sport team-mate Gus Greensmith for just the third time this weekend – by 0.7s – and his first time out in the forests. But Greensmith still heads Fourmaux in seventh by 1m16.9s.
1 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) 5m25.5s
2 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +3.5s
3 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (Hyundai) +5.7s
4 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota) +6.6s
5 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota) +7.2s
6 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston +10.2s
Leading positions after SS17
1 Evans/Martin (Toyota) 2h08m36.8s
2 Tänak/Järveoja (Hyundai) +12.2s
3 Breen/Nagle (Hyundai) +31.3s
4 Lappi/Ferm (Toyota) +54.1s
5 Ogier/Ingrassia (Toyota) +2m39.5s
6 Gus Greensmith/Chris Patterson (M-Sport Ford) +4m41.9s
7 Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (M-Sport Ford) +5m58.8s
8 Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Volkswagen) +9m06.9s
9 Mads Østberg/Torstein Eriksen (Citroën) +9m16.2s
10 Emil Lindholm/Reeta Hämäläinen (Škoda) +10m49.8s