Ott Tänak has brought Elfyn Evans’ streak of five Rally Finland stage wins to an end on the first repeat stage of Saturday, increasing the pressure on second-placed Craig Breen in the process.
Tänak ended Saturday morning with a 9.7-second deficit to rally leader Evans and trailed Hyundai team-mate Breen by 4.1s.
But Breen couldn’t match Tänak on Kakaristo – Hassi 2, losing 2.3s to have his advantage whittled down to 1.8s. Evans, who missed out on the stage win by 0.6s, has in turn increased his rally lead from 5.6s to 7.3s.
However Breen’s time loss was explained by a small issue right at the start of the stage. He kissed a haybale on a sweeping left-hander and damaged the front-left dive-plane on his i20 Coupe WRC.
“I had really quite nasty aero balance,” Breen confirmed. “I tried my [best], I did absolutely everything I could. No more than that.”
Tänak meanwhile was far happier with his morning, believing the second pass stage conditions suited the Hyundai better.
“The grip is higher now and the car is easier to drive, so the feeling was for sure better,” he said. “We keep the pressure on them.”
Sébastien Ogier also appeared much happier with his life aboard his Toyota Yaris WRC than he was in the morning, and indeed it showed in his stage time as he lost just 0.2s to Thierry Neuville in fifth place ahead of him.
“We make some change and actually I think it’s good,” Ogier said. “I just need to use it, but I understood it’s good.”
However he wasn’t up for revealing what had been changed. Asked if he could reveal what he was talking about, Ogier simply said: “No.”
For his part, Neuville wasn’t quite happy with the set-up of his Hyundai but it wasn’t causing him too much stress.
“I was a little bit high and a little bit too soft, but we can easily change that for the next stage,” he said.
Neuville has targeted Esapekka Lappi’s fourth place and he was faster on SS11. But, his stage advantage was just 0.1s and only 0.2s separated Neuville, Lappi and Ogier through the test.
“It was a perfect stage, I was really on it, I didn’t do any mistakes,” said Lappi, who has exactly 20s in hand over Neuville.
“I just said [to Janne Ferm, co-driver] ‘I can’t go any faster.’”
Neither of the two M-Sport drivers, Gus Greensmith and Adrien Fourmaux, could live with the Hyundais and Toyotas on SS11.
Greensmith was 18.6s down on Ogier (19.2s shy of the scratch time) with Fourmaux a further 4.4s slower.
1 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) 8m23.5s
2 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +0.6s
3 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (Hyundai) +2.3s
4 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +3.9s
5 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota) +4.0s
6 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota) +4.1s
Leading positions after SS11
1 Evans/Martin (Toyota) 1h28m39.7s
2 Breen/Nagle (Hyundai) +7.3s
3 Tänak/Järveoja (Hyundai) +9.1s
4 Lappi/Ferm (Toyota) +36.7s
5 Neuville/Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +56.7s
6 Ogier/Ingrassia (Toyota) +1m09.8s
7 Gus Greensmith/Chris Patterson (M-Sport Ford) +3m14.2s
8 Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (M-Sport Ford) +4m09.9s
9 Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Volkswagen) +6m14.1s
10 Emil Lindholm/Reeta Hämäläinen Škoda (Fabia Rally2 evo) +6m23.6s