The Academy drivers, who pilot identical Ford Fiesta R2s prepared by the British M-Sport organisation using Pirelli control tyres, tackled 18 stages of the high-speed gravel rally.
With two stages left to run, Estonian Kaur trailed Irishman Craig Breen by a slender margin of 2.3s. But despite his best efforts Breen was unable to fend off Kaur’s advances and had to settle for the runner-up spot instead, 2.6s behind Kaur. It means Kaur’s lead of the drivers’ standings increases to 52 points over Breen and Australian Brendan Reeves, who finished fourth behind Dutchman Timo van der Marel.
“It was an insane weekend, especially today when we were switching positions with Craig on every stage,” said Kaur. “On the start line of the final stage we had to decide what we wanted to do, leave it or push and go for it. The feeling was really good so we went flat out and we did it!”
Breen, the highest placed of the six Pirelli Star Drivers competing in Finland, said: “I lost a lot of time on stage 16 when I was caught behind two cars. We really wanted to win, we were so hungry for this victory, but that’s rally and we can’t think too much about the ifs and buts. We have to focus on the rest of the season now and with Tarmac events to come I think we can do well and maybe still win the Cup.”
Van der Marel started the final day in fourth position but moved ahead of Reeves when his rival suffered a puncture on Saturday morning.
“We were in a position where there was no point pushing because there was a big gap behind me and ahead of me,” said van der Marel. “I just cruised through the stages today to avoid making any mistakes to try and secure third.”
Jan Cerny was fifth behind Reeves with Yeray Lemes sixth and Christian Riedemann in seventh. Molly Taylor’s recovery from a puncture on Thursday evening brought her and new co-driver Seb Marshall back up to ninth, one place behind Miko-Ove Niinemae.
Alastair Fisher, who was leading comfortably after six stages, was unable to restart on Saturday due to damage sustained when he left the road on stage seven and hit a bank after running through a ditch.
“Even though we’d built a lead of 28 seconds we still had to commit to our pacenotes and keep pushing because the moment you back off you lose your rhythm and too much time, which is always difficult to recover,” said Fisher. “Unfortunately the smallest mistakes are punished very heavily in Finland.”
WRC Academy information bulletins from Neste Oil Rally Finland:
Follow this link for event statistics.
Follow this link for a news round-up.
Follow this link for a driver-by-driver summary.