Evans on brink of Finland victory after another stage win

Having kept Ott Tänak at bay on Laukaa, Elfyn Evans has Rally Finland win within his sights


Elfyn Evans is just one stage away from a maiden Rally Finland victory, leading double winner Ott Tänak by 12.4 seconds after setting yet another fastest stage time.

Tänak won the first pass of Laukaa earlier on Sunday morning, albeit by just 0.4s over Evans, to nose himself slightly closer to the rally lead.

But a terrific run from Evans on the next stage moved him into a seemingly comfortable 12.2s lead with just the short two-stage loop to be repeated.

Evans kept up the momentum when that began on SS18, beating Tänak by a slender 0.2s to put himself in an enviable position ahead of the powerstage.

“I’m feeling pretty good now,” said Evans. “It was a pretty decent run, quite clean to be honest and quite committed so happy enough.”

Tänak, who has won the last two editions of Rally Finland for Toyota, has kept Evans honest in his Hyundai but admitted his victory hopes are over, barring any disasters for the rally leader.

“I don’t think there is much pressure anymore,” Tänak said. “We just have fun now.”

Esapekka Lappi, running fourth overall in a rented Toyota Yaris WRC, set a strong pace on Rally Finland’s penultimate stage, feeling his run was close to perfect as he stopped the clocks just 1.8s slower than Evans.

Esapekka Lappi

“I made one mistake,” he explained. “I went slightly off the line on one tight corner but otherwise it was a really good stage. I’m pretty pleased.”

Craig Breen atoned for his small spin on the first pass of the stage, avoiding any errors the second time around. The Hyundai driver was fourth quickest – 2.4s down on Lappi – but lies third overall, on course for his third WRC podium in succession.

Takamoto Katsuta, running first onto the stages because of his retirement on Saturday, continued his decent Sunday form with the sixth fastest stage time, just 1.8s down on fifth placed Sébastien Ogier.

Ogier’s focus is firmly on the powerstage that will conclude the rally as he bids to top up his current haul of 10 points from the weekend.

The M-Sport Fords have struggled to live with the pacesetters on Rally Finland, so the focus for both Gus Greensmith in sixth and Adrien Fourmaux in seventh has shifted to just enjoying the stages.

Greensmith described Laukaa as “one of the best stages in the world” as “everything seems to be on the limit everywhere. It’s what it’s about”.

He was 2.1s quicker than his team-mate, whose agenda echoed that of Greensmith.

“I’m just trying to enjoy all I can as it’s the last stages we’ll do with these cars on gravel, that’s the only thing,” Fourmaux confessed.

Kalle Rovanperä was comfortably slowest of the World Rally Cars – 25.3s adrift of next-slowest Fourmaux – as he continued to elect not to aggravate his back injury, picked up when crashing head-on with a pile of sand on Saturday.

It’s therefore unlikely that Rovanperä will push for points on the powerstage later on.

SS18 times

1 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) 5m18.0s
2 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +0.2s
3 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota) +1.8s
4 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (Hyundai) +4.2s
5 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota) +5.1s
6 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +6.9s

Leading positions after SS18

1 Evans/Martin (Toyota) 2h13m54.8s
2 Tänak/Järveoja (Hyundai) +12.4s
3 Breen/Nagle (Hyundai) +35.5s
4 Lappi/Ferm (Toyota) +55.9s
5 Ogier/Ingrassia (Toyota) +2m44.6s
6 Gus Greensmith/Chris Patterson (M-Sport Ford) +4m52.2s
7 Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (M-Sport Ford) +6m11.2s
8 Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Volkswagen) +9m26.7s
9 Mads Østberg/Torstein Eriksen (Citroën) +9m40.8s
10 Emil Lindholm/Reeta Hämäläinen (Škoda) +10m20.6s