Evans leapfrogs Breen and Tänak to lead in Finland

Third-straight stage win gives Toyota driver a 0.9-second lead as top three continue to pull away


Elfyn Evans’ superb Rally Finland form continued on Saturday morning, as he vaulted from third to first by overhauling the Hyundais of Craig Breen and Ott Tänak.

Evans began Saturday 6.1 seconds behind overnight leader Breen but won the opening test – albeit by 0.2s – to outline his intentions.

A superb time from Evans on Päijälä, which was 4.2s quicker than Tänak’s effort and 6.8s faster than Breen’s, moved him into the rally lead by just 0.9s over Breen – despite Evans feeling he was not “perfect in places”.

“Compared to Ott it was not a bad stage, but Elfyn has done a real blinder in there,” Breen admitted. “That’s a pretty amazing time, hats off.”


Photo: Hyundai Motorsport

Tänak, despite dropping to third, moved closer to his Hyundai team-mate Breen; trailing by 1.4s as only 2.3s covers the top three.

Thierry Neuville set the fourth-fastest time, extending his gap over seventh placed Sébastien Ogier into double figures on SS8, but has his eyes firmly fixed forward.

He has a 17.4s deficit to recover if he’s interested in Espaekka Lappi’s fifth position – although Neuville was three seconds quicker on the stage.

Kalle Rovanperä was just as downbeat as he had been on Saturday’s opener, nicking another 0.4s from Lappi to keep him two seconds behind but now 16.9s down on the lead.

“I just don’t have the grip to do anything else,” he said. “I just try to survive, it’s really, really crazy.”

The two M-Sport Fords of Gus Greensmith and Adrien Fourmaux have been promoted to eighth and ninth respectively following Takamoto Katsuta’s retirement.

The Toyota junior had been setting some encouraging pace on the stage but ran wide over a crest just a few corners from the finish, clouting something with the rear-right of his Toyota Yaris WRC. The damage proved too severe for him to continue.

It means Katsuta’s barren run of form has extended. He has not scored a WRC point since securing second place on Safari Rally Kenya almost four months ago.

Former M-Sport driver Teemu Suninen now occupies the final points-paying position in 10th, leading WRC2 in a Volkswagen Polo GTI R5.

Teemu Suninen

Photo: Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

His class advantage stands at 13.4s over Mads Østberg, who was “disappointed” that he had “no feeling” on SS8.

Things were bleaker for Nikolay Gryazin though, as he dropped over a minute with a right-rear puncture that completely destroyed the wheel arch of his VW.

“It was just a small stone and I don’t know how it makes a puncture, it’s quite surprising,” he said. “I didn’t feel a big hit, maybe it was a sharp stone.”

Hyundai’s Oliver Solberg is out of the running altogether, having crashed on the previous stage.

SS8 times

1 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) 10m28.9s
2 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +4.2s
3 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (Hyundai) +6.8s
4 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +7.9s
5 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) +10.5s
6 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota) +10.9s

Leading positions after SS8

1 Evans/Martin (Toyota) 1h03m00.8s
2 Breen/Nagle (Hyundai) +0.9s
3 Tänak/Järveoja (Hyundai) +2.3s
4 Rovanperä/Halttunen (Toyota) +16.9s
5 Lappi/Ferm (Toyota) +18.9s
6 Neuville/Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +36.3s
7 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota) +48.3s
8 Gus Greensmith/Chris Patterson (M-Sport Ford) +2m03.9s
9 Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (M-Sport Ford) +2m45s
10 Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Volkswagen) +4m15.4s