The young Briton, winner of the previous round in Greece in late May, set out with the aim of blending his natural speed with avoiding making mistakes on the high-speed gravel stages around host city Jyvaskyla.
“At the minute everything is okay,” said Evans. “We are trying our best to find the balance between good speed and looking after the car. I think it’s going okay.”
Evans was in a close scrap with fellow Briton Alastair Fisher when Fisher, the title leader, picked up a front-right puncture on stage five. But after stopping to change the tyre, a throttle problem prevented him from going any further. He plans to return under Rally 2 rules on Saturday but will restart in a distant 10th place.
“We went over a crest on a left-hander and there was a rock sitting in the road about five kilometres in,” said Fisher. “Then there was a problem with the throttle, there was no response and we couldn’t carry on.”
In the battle for second place, Sweden’s Pontus Tidemand holds the advantage on his Rally Finland debut ahead of Australian Brendan Reeves and Dutch driver Timo van der Marel. Jose Suarez, from Spain, is fifth with Briton John MacCrone sixth. American Chris Duplessis and Portugal’s Joao Silva complete the top eight with South Africa’s Ashley Haigh-Smith ninth after brake woes.