Friday | 24 Sep 2021

Rally rewind: Finland 2019

It’s been more than two years since the forests and lakes of central Finland echoed to the sound of the FIA World Rally Championship. A week ahead of the 2021 fixture, we recall our top five highlights from a pulsating 2019 encounter.

1. Finland’s fast and furious Friday
The opening leg was one of those WRC days that lives long in the memory. After 10 blisteringly fast forest speed tests to add the traditional Harju opener through Jyväskylä’s streets, the leading quartet were blanketed by just 2.6sec.

Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Jari-Matti Latvala won six stages but could never break free of the chasing pack. Team-mate Kris Meeke was 1.2sec behind with Esapekka Lappi, driving a Citroën C3, showing a welcome return to form to hold third, a similar margin adrift.

Championship leader Ott Tänak was two-tenths further back. The Estonian led throughout the morning, his cause aided by left-sided punctures for Latvala and Meeke.

As the tracks became rutted and more challenging in the afternoon, Tänak yielded his advantage to Latvala. The battle was so close that at one point Latvala led by six-tenths, with the three chasers tied in second!

Video: Rally Finland 2019 best of action

2. Kakaristo’s rogue rock
A fast and furious Friday turned into a super speed Saturday. Six-tenths covered Latvala, Tänak and Meeke as Toyota dominated on roads it knows so well. And then the rally turned into Kakaristo, featuring many roads borrowed from the legendary Ouninpohja.

The complexion changed shortly before the midpoint of the 18.70km test, at a right bend on a small road.

“There was concrete there last year so I had my note,” related Latvala later. “They had removed the concrete so I made my note a bit faster and that was my mistake. I went a little bit into the ditch but there was a stone the size of a head there…”

The impact punctured the leader’s rear left tyre and Meeke retired with broken rear left suspension.

Early leader Jari-Matti Latvala had to settle for third

3. Title-chasing Tänak
Tänak had regained and then lost the lead before Kakaristo, but when Latvala yielded almost 15sec, the Estonian had his break.

His advantage was sufficient to moderate his pace over the afternoon’s heavily rutted sections and he ended the day with a 16.4sec lead over Lappi, with a dejected Latvala nearly half a minute off the lead in third.

The hard work was done. He eased through the final day to secure back-to-back Finland wins, and his third victory in four rallies, by 25.6sec. He also took maximum points with fastest time in the Wolf Power Stage to open a 22-point lead in the championship standings.

It was a significant move en route to the title.

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4. Breen shines on Hyundai bow
Craig Breen was mightily impressive on his first appearance in a Hyundai i20 in the WRC. He delivered a string of second fastest times in the opening leg and later lent a helping hand to team-mate Thierry Neuville in the Belgian’s title bid. He deliberately incurred a 20sec penalty, allowing Neuville to leapfrog him into sixth and score extra points.

5. Smile returns to Lappi’s face
It had been hard to raise a smile from the likeable Lappi as the season progressed. He had struggled to find his feet in Citroën’s C3 but in Finland he was back to best, conjuring up memories of that stunning win on the same roads in 2017. A new front differential transformed the C3 for him. The smile was back and he was the only driver capable of mixing it with Toyota’s front-running trio.

• Full coverage from Secto Automotive Rally Finland will be available on WRC+ All Live here, including every stage broadcast as it happens as well as key interviews, features and expert analysis from the service park.

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