Jari Huttunen suspects his M-Sport Ford Puma Rally1 was carrying its fuel pressure problem – an issue team principal Richard Millener believes was outside of the team’s control.
Huttunen had been lying eighth overall on Rally Finland – his first ever event in a Rally1 car – after seven stages before it all unraveled towards the end of the third and final loop of Friday.
Huttunen strangely came to a standstill when negotiating a junction before he coaxed his Ford back into life and continued on SS8 Sahloinen-Moksi.
But several other times throughout the stage Huttunen lost power and was forced to stop – even pulling off the stage momentarily to clear the route for WRC2 runners Emil Lindholm and Teemu Suninen.
Huttunen eventually made it to the end of the test but not until he lost five minutes and any chance of a result.
His car worked fine for the final two stages of the day but the problem was still lingering, and that forced Huttunen to adapt his driving style as he couldn’t predict when he might lose power and couldn’t therefore give the stages his all.
Asked by DirtFish to explain what went wrong, Huttunen said: “Actually I think there was the whole day some fuel pressure problem, but difficult to explain exactly why was that.
“We thought we found the reason but actually we didn’t, but now we will know the reason [in service].
“It is [like it is].”
“It seems to be some kind of fuel pressure issue which we don’t know the exact reason for yet,” added Millener.
“It’s something that’s maybe a little bit outside of our control, but we’ll have to change the parts tonight and make sure he can get back into tomorrow with no issues. Because considering he’s only really done one day in Estonia testing for this rally and that was before Estonia Rally, so three and a bit weeks ago, his pace has been really good.
“It’s the same thing we’ve talked about before, you see a new young driver step up to the top plate and they have such a good fun time, they are enjoying it so much, their driving is incredibly good.
“So I hope he just puts the last couple of stages behind him and continues to have a nice rally and he’s got the home support and he’s doing very well.”
Huttunen did indeed have an impressive day. He may not have been fighting for stage wins like Finnish compatriots Kalle Rovanperä and Esapekka Lappi, but nor should he have been expected to given this was his debut at the top of the World Rally Championship.
The most measurable reference was Huttunen’s team-mates and he showed well, running close with Pierre-Louis Loubet before his problems – the highlight a fourth fastest stage time that was just four tenths shy of quickest on Harju.
Naturally, Huttunen admitted he is “not really happy” at the end of the day given what unfolded but his speed did at least offer some comfort.
“In the morning I was quite happy, it feels I am quite close and I can do something,” he surmised.
“This evening it feels I can make something with the driving and I was closer with my driving, but you can’t really show that because you have some problems so I’m not sure if my driving was better in the evening than in the morning.
“Hopefully the car is OK tomorrow and now I have new things I have to learn. It’s the first time I am second on the road so it’s quite a new thing, so I have to learn that.”