Rally Finland deserves a thrilling finale, and that’s exactly what lies in store on Sunday with Elfyn Evans and Ott Tänak separated by just 9.1 seconds.
Evans has the advantage, but Tänak has the know-how having won this rally the last two times it has run – in 2018 and ’19.
The rally leader is nonchalant: “[I’ve] not really [been] looking at it [the position] too much to be honest,” he told DirtFish on Saturday evening. “[I’m] trying to enjoy it as much as possible, and drive the car as well as we can and see what comes.”
Tänak for his part has been “trying to put pressure on Elfyn” so “that he needs to push as well”, and believes that the morning pass on Sunday will be crucial.
“In the morning you can win seconds, in the afternoon tenths,” he said, “so for sure we need to keep pushing since the morning.”
It promises to be a thriller, doesn’t it? Here’s who our writers are backing to come out on top.
It’ll be Evans… or Tänak
Is this a serious question? Who do I think will win tomorrow? I can’t answer that. I can’t even begin to answer that.
OK, OK, OK… Elfyn Evans.
No! Ott Tänak.
I’m useless with things like this. I hate the thought that I’ve jinxed one or the other.
But it’s got to be Evans, right? He’s the man of the moment and he’s in a Toyota that’s got pace to spare on these roads. Nobody knows better than Tänak just how much data Toyota has logged over roads identical to those used to the east of Jyväskylä tomorrow.
Jari-Matti Latvala and his team have seen Ruuhimäki in every condition, in every grip level, and from every angle.
Then again, Tänak’s Tänak. He can find something from places where others would fear to go. From a technical performance perspective, he has to drag more out of his machine than Evans does from the Yaris. Will that tell? Probably not. Cars hardly ever break down in Finland.
No! I’ve definitely jinxed one of them now. Maybe edit that bit out.
No. Leave it. Time to man-up. I’m going with Evans tomorrow. Nothing to do with jingoism, just that a 9.1s advantage is pretty tricky to overturn on a stage as quick as Laukaa and a road as risky as Ruuhimäki.
Regardless of who wins, the most super of super Sundays awaits. Don’t even think about taking the dog for a walk. Sit tight and enjoy the ride.
Evans has looked too good
I’ve made the mistake of doubting Elfyn Evans far too many times this season. Wind the clock back six months to Croatia, and I was adamant the victory fight on the final day was between anybody but him. Of course, he led going into the final stage.
Ahead of Finland, I was sure he’d finish bottom of the five Toyotas competing in Jyväskylä. And then on Friday, I vouched for Evans as ‘driver of the day’ – an accolade he certainly deserves for his Saturday performance too – but then went on to claim that of the five drivers then in the scrap, I would be wagering the least cents on him if I was a betting man.
Five has become two, and here we go again. Evans keeps making me look like a fool, so I won’t be making that same mistake once again.
Nothing is ever assured in rallying, but it’s hard to see past Evans making good of his 9.1s advantage on Sunday’s stages.
The opening stage of the day – Laukaa – will likely be key as it can set a tone, and Evans has shown over the years (think Corsica 2019, Croatia 2021 and Portugal 2021) that he’s a demon at starting brightly in a final day battle.
There’s no escaping the fact that taking on Tänak is no easy task, but Evans – in this vein of form – has proven before that he’s more than a match for the very best.
The hidden factor that could ultimately decide it all is car performance, as the pendulum has swung between Toyota and Hyundai across the two days.
But on pure driver performance, Evans has this one under control barring any unforeseen circumstances.
It’s not just a two-horse race
In a straight battle between Evans and Tänak, where Evans begins with almost a 10s head start and there’s only 28.42 miles to play with, then I would go for Evans.
But this is Rally Finland, and this is 2021. Tänak’s Hyundai team-mate Thierry Neuville exited proceedings on Saturday with a car issue that could be attributed in some small way to the driver, but was a case once again of the i20 Coupe WRC just buckling under the pressure of the conditions it’s supposed to be driven under.
And I am absolutely not ruling out that occurring to Tänak on Sunday too. And the chasing Craig Breen for that matter, given he has already had a close shave with some light cosmetic damage to a wheel arch.
So that would leave Evans as my favorite, but, and it’s a big but, there’s something about Esapekka Lappi being 44.8s behind on his World Rally Car return that leaves another tantalizing possibility open…