Tänak not the only frontrunner struggling for confidence

Tänak's hands have been shaking at the end of stages, he's pushing so hard, and Toyota


It’s not just Ott Tänak that’s struggling to find the ultimate feeling on Rally Finland, as all three works Toyota drivers encountered the same problem on Saturday morning’s loop.

Tänak leads the rally by 9.5 seconds over Esapekka Lappi, with Kalle Rovanperä and Elfyn completing the top four.

It’s been well documented that Tänak has been pushing the limits of his Hyundai i20 N Rally1, arriving at the end of one stage on Friday with his hands shaking due to the commitment he had displayed.

But as the rain has begun to affect proceedings and, in Lappi’s words, made it a “different kind of rally now”, it’s emerged that none of Toyota’s leading lights are in their comfort zone either.

Rovanperä has had the best morning of any of the leaders, winning two of the four stages and moving up a position to third at the expense of team-mate Evans.


But it hasn’t been an easy ride.

“I’m not really 100% happy,” he told DirtFish. “Of course everybody is pushing and everybody is going flat out but I just feel I can’t be as clean as I want.

“I all the time make some small mistakes and things when I don’t really feel so good with the car, I need to work too much.

“I just need to fight with the car a bit too much in places,” Rovanperä added, “I need to drive it a bit harder than I would want to.”

Evans laid out his stall on the day’s first stage as he went fastest, but a string of third-quickest times on the succeeding three stages have left him fourth heading into service.

Although his pace has been slightly shy of Rovanperä, Evans does appear to be closer to his comfort zone. But still the Yaris isn’t doing everything he wants it to.

“It’s difficult,” he said, “we’ve been playing so much yesterday [with the setup of the car] I’m sort of reluctant to keep changing things all the time to be honest, it’s not in a bad window now.

“Still of course there’s areas we would like to explore but I’m equally aware you can make things worse, so I think for now we’re not going to change so much.”

Evans was imperious on Saturday in Finland last year, setting a blitz of fastest times as he found the ultimate zone with himself and his machine. So if that was 100%, where is he at now?

“The car is working pretty well but let’s say it doesn’t fit like a glove, you can’t do everything you want with it,” he replied.

“I think it’s natural so early in the cycle of the car like that, testing’s so limited, so yeah. I don’t want to put a number on it but the margins are fine at the end of the day.

“You only need that last few percent to make the difference between being fully comfortable and maybe having that slight bit of doubt in certain areas.”

Ironically Lappi is the happiest of the Toyota bunch in terms of his setup, but has lost the most time over the course of the loop. His deficit to rally leader Tänak has grown while his advantage over team-mate Rovanperä has shrunk from 17.2s to just 3.4s.

However he does have an experience deficit to both Rovanperä and Evans given he is completing just a part season in 2022, and therefore hasn’t driven the car as much in these sorts of conditions.


That unfamiliarity has left him unwilling to play around with the setup too much.

“I have not been driving on these kinds of conditions and you know, if you start to change the car there is a risk it actually goes much worse,” Lappi explained.

“So at the moment it feels pretty OK, I don’t want to do anything major. So I will stay like this.

“I feel pretty OK with the car. It’s just missing really small things,” he added.

“It might be just a few corners where we are too slow and then you lose this one second or one and a half. Then basically 95% all the time is OK.

“But it’s crazy, I know everyone has these moments, but I have a couple. I’m sure, I’ve seen some lines as well, that there must be some others as well.”

Tänak certainly hasn’t had an easy ride, and is perhaps aware that the closing Rovanperä is his biggest obstacle for a third Rally Finland win.

But the Hyundai leading the three Toyotas is a position nobody – certainly not Tänak nor Hyundai – expected him to be in at any point in the rally, let alone after 14 of 22 stages.

However the 2019 world champion has certainly looked much closer to his limit than any of the Toyota drivers, but he insists he hasn’t necessarily been putting everything on the line

“It’s not really been about taking risks, it’s just in places it’s not handling like I wish and then I can’t take the lines which I need to take to carry the speed,” he said.

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“So yeah, just in places I need to slow down because different things but other than that we are trying, last stage we managed to improve a bit the direction, the balance improved a little bit, and then we had a good stage.

“We’ve been in places definitely on the limit, but we are fighting, we are not giving away anything for free.”

Tänak is in the right position, but rallies aren’t won on Saturday lunchtime. How confident is he that he can hold on and take first place on Sunday?

“For sure we see the Toyotas are getting stronger and stronger now, they’ve been waking up now so they are up to the speed they should have been at the beginning,” Tänak said, cheekily.

“But still we have some margin, we have some gap and in Finland it’s not so easy to take back so I keep my rhythm and let’s see how hard they push.”