Finland leader Tänak takes first stage win

Aiming for a hat-trick on the 'gravel grand prix', 2019 champion headed another Hyundai 1-2 on SS3 with Lappi third

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Ott Tänak extended his Rally Finland lead by a second over Craig Breen to head the event by 1.7s before Friday’s lunchtime service break.

Takamoto Katsuta won the opening Harju street-stage but the Hyundais of Tänak and Breen have bossed the rally since heading out into the forests.

Breen won the previous test but Tänak, who won Rally Finland in both 2018 and 2019 for Toyota, responded on SS3 Sahloinen to shade his team-mate by that single second.

Hyundai has never won Rally Finland before, but so far its i20 Coupe WRC has looked more than a match for Toyota’s Yaris WRC – even if Tänak was not totally content.

“I was not happy on the first stage with the car, I had quite a bad pre-event [test] so it changed quite a lot fundamentally,” he said.

“It seemed to work quite OK but I still need to get used to it. Still too much hesitating, we can improve.”


Photo: Toyota Gazoo Racing

Kalle Rovanperä was fourth quickest on SS3 but admitted that he “cannot push more”. He dropped 3.9s to the stage winner, putting him 7.8s behind in fourth overall.

“To be honest I’m on the absolute limit, I take all the risks that I can and I just cannot be faster,” he said.

Elfyn Evans was just 0.2s slower than his team-mate on SS3 and has a 1.9s advantage over Rovanperä in fourth overall.

Neither Evans nor Rovanperä could match Esapekka Lappi though, who was beaten by just 0.6s on SS3 to vault back up to third overall in the fifth Toyota Yaris WRC.


Photo: Toyota Gazoo Racing

Lappi, who won his home event back in 2017, has not driven a Toyota since 2018 or any World Rally Car for that matter in 10 months, but ended the loop just 5.4s adrift of the lead – 0.5s ahead of Evans.

Sébastien Ogier had hoped that running at the head of the field would not be too major a handicap in the damper, fall conditions this year but so far, that has not proved to be the case.

The world champion ended the first loop seventh overall, 15.6s off the lead, and observed “it seems that the road is getting quicker” for his rivals.

Thierry Neuville headed Ogier by 2.6s in sixth overall, but the Hyundai driver appeared uncomfortable to take the ultimate risks in order to keep up with the pacesetters.

Katsuta, who survived a dramatic high-speed spin on the previous test, punched in the sixth-quickest time on SS3 to climb from 10th to eighth, ahead of the two M-Sport Fords.

“After that [spin] maybe I was a little bit careful,” said the Toyota junior. “I’m trying to get back the confidence and the feeling and push again.”

Gus Greensmith occupied ninth, holding an 8.2s edge of Adrien Fourmaux – completing the top 10 on his first rally with new co-driver Alexandre Coria.

Mads Østberg has an opportunity to draw level with Andreas Mikkelsen in the WRC2 title race if he scores maximum points this weekend in Finland.


Photo: McKlein Image Database

So far, he has done everything he needs to – despite admitting “it’s a shame” not to be competing on the stages with a WRC car – by taking the lead of the Rally2 pack in 11th overall.

M-Sport exile Teemu Suninen is the chaser in-chief, lurking 4.9s behind Østberg on his first rally with a Volkswagen Polo GTI R5. Nikolay Gryazin is however just 0.5s further back in third.

Remarkably, Emil Lindholm’s Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo is sandwiched between the two Polos as well, 0.4s behind Suninen but 0.1s ahead of Gryazin. The Finn leads WRC3 by seven seconds over Mikko Heikkilä.

SS3 times

1 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +10m14.5s
2 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (Hyundai) +1s
3 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota) +1.6s
4 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) +3.9s
5 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +4.1s
6 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +7.8s

Leading positions after SS3

1 Tänak/Järveoja (Hyundai) 17m49.7s
2 Breen/Nagle (Hyundai) +1.7s
4 Lappi/Ferm (Toyota) +5.4s
3 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +5.9s
5 Rovanperä/Halttunen (Toyota) +7.8s
6 Neuville/Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +13s
7 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota) +15.6s
8 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +28.4s
9 Gus Greensmith/Chris Patterson (M-Sport Ford) +32.6s
10 Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (M-Sport Ford) +40.8s