Evans wins SS11, Tänak extends his rally lead over Lappi

It was the Toyota driver's first stage win of this year's Rally Finland


Elfyn Evans scored his first stage win of this year’s Rally Finland in a rain-affected opening test of Saturday, as Ott Tänak extended his rally lead over Esapekka Lappi.

Rain has been a perennial threat throughout the Rally Finland weekend so far, but it finally arrived on Saturday morning, creating a damp opening Päijälä stage.

Such conditions can often favor those earlier in the running order, but at least in the case of the four M-Sport Fords that were at the head of the pack, each car that went through got faster.

Pierre-Louis Loubet was the quickest of that quartet followed by Gus Greensmith – contesting what is his favorite stage in the whole World Rally Championship – Jari Huttunen and then first-on-the-road Adrien Fourmaux who set the slowest Rally1 time.

Greensmith described the conditions: “The best stage in the world didn’t have much grip. It was slippy but enjoyable, a long way from the limit in there.”


All four of those Fords were split by just 3.5 seconds, although the quickest of them did arrive at the stop-line with some rear-right damage.

“In a junction very slowly, on a Tarmac section I go back on the throttle too early and I touch something a little bit, but it’s really nothing,” said Loubet.

That trend was momentarily broken as the later cars entered the stage though. Craig Breen reckoned “for sure there was a bit of cleaning” and that “the rain was maybe worse for the guys in front, I had it not so bad”.

Breen was in the sweet spot in the running order, as the rain began to fall again and fall relatively hard for the leaders Lappi and Tänak who entered the stage second-last and last.

Lappi appeared to be more affected than Tänak, losing 2.8s to his rival to now trail by 6.6s overall, but Tänak wasn’t at his swashbuckling best like he was on Friday due to the changing conditions.


The Hyundai driver dropped 4.3s to the stage winner, but his growing gap over the second-placed Toyota was the one that mattered.

“The conditions actually are not so difficult, but this thing is a nightmare to drive,” Tänak said.

Asked if he lost time purely because of the rain, Lappi said: “I don’t know to be fair. I believe just a lack of grip. It’s quite slippy, but we did what we could.”

Evans has closed to 8.4s behind Lappi now, beating him by 7.1s on SS11, in what was an important stage for last year’s Finland winner as he stole another seven tenths from Kalle Rovanperä too – keeping him 2.4s behind in fourth.

“Not so happy with my run but yeah, not so easy condition either,” said Rovanperä.

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Breen is slipping into no man’s land with an 18.2s deficit to Rovanperä ahead of him, but nine seconds over Takamoto Katsuta behind.

“I was very, very careful because I did not know how slippy it is but grip was OK,” Katsuta said.

“But I’ve never done this stage in a rally car, I’ve done it in recce many times but always before this stage I’ve crashed,” he laughed.

Katsuta lost 1.7s to Thierry Neuville on the stage but he looks relatively safe in sixth place, 13s ahead overall. And Neuville wasn’t sounding like he’s in a rhythm to make Katsuta’s life hell.

“It’s difficult again for me to drive,” he said. “We had to change the diffs yesterday and I don’t feel so comfortable anymore. We have to work around it.”