Choosing the winning driver seems a little bit cliché. But last week, Ott Tänak really was the star.
It’s not been a good year for the Estonian driver and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realise, despite what the times suggested, that he was not happy nor comfortable aboard his Hyundai i20 N.
Finland is not a rally for the faint-hearted and staying committed at such high speeds in a car you’re not 100 per cent at one with takes a lot of bravery. Tänak had to wring that Hyundai’s neck to keep Kalle Rovanperä at bay and, for that, he deserves a lot of respect.
Most memorable stage
Sunday morning’s opener at Oittila 1 was pivotal in terms of the lead battle.
A day earlier, Rovanperä sliced the deficit to Tänak by more than half. Many people - Tänak included - expected the GR Yaris driver to be fastest out of the blocks, but he wasn’t.
Tänak outpaced his rival by 1.9sec with a “full gas” effort. If things had gone the other way, we could’ve been looking at a very different outcome.
The fact that Esapekka Lappi made it to the end of the rally! When the Finn arrived to the SS21 stop line after rolling, the state of his Toyota’s body work was the least of his worries. The coolant pouring from the damaged radiator was the main concern.
Rallying is all about adapting. Lappi and co-driver Janne Ferm grabbed some metal epoxy from their toolkit and set about filling the hole. As fate would have it, the pair were right next to a lake from which they filled up their water pouches and the radiator.
The temporary repair held and enabled Lappi to secure a podium.
One to forget
Craig Breen just can’t seem to buy a break at the moment. The stage times were looking promising, but the M-Sport man ripped a rear wheel from his Puma when he hit a hard banking.
Estonia and Finland were both meant to be strong rallies for Breen and both have ended in disappointment. Ypres Rally Belgium (18 - 21 August) could be the Irishman’s final chance to challenge for victory at an event he’s familiar with. Next week he must do exactly that.
Photo of the rally
This picture of Lappi shows exactly why we love our sport. In any other discipline, a roll would probably have been game over. But not in the WRC. Dig the goggles out and crack on.
It was almost curtains for Rovanperä on SS14 - Vekkula 1. An overly optimistic pace note led to a huge slide on a right-hander, with all four wheels of Rovanperä’s Yaris ending up on the grass.
In typical fashion, the 20-year-old kept his right foot planted and got away with it while still posting the second-fastest time.
Quote of the rally
“That was the best 9min 41.4sec of my life.”
As you can see, Gus Greensmith loves this rally. And he especially loves Päijäla - one of Finland’s many classic stages.
You’ll never believe it
Competition is always fierce in Finland, but it’s rare for the leading drivers to set identical times.
Tänak and Rovanpera were tied - to the tenth of a second - on two occasions in Patajoki and Ruuhimäki.
Number of the rally
67. The unofficial distance, in metres, Thierry Neuville flew over the famous Ruuhimäki jump. The hybrid-powered Rally1 cars have less aero than the previous generation, but the Belgian was only two metres short of Adrien Fourmaux’s 2021 record.
Before this year, Hyundai Motorsport had never previously won in Finland. With Toyota’s workshops located just a stone’s throw away from the Jyväskylä service park, the Korean manufacturer squad definitely had its work cut out.