The high-speed roads of Neste Rally Finland (28 - 31 July) will host another heavyweight battle in WRC 2 as a trio of title contenders take on the fearsome jumps in a bid to enhance their championship chances.
Series leader Elfyn Evans (Ford Fiesta R5), Teemu Suninen and Pontus Tidemand (both Skoda Fabia R5s) have won six of the seven rounds between them so far, but Evans acknowledges that taking on his Nordic rivals on home turf will be tough.
“Speed and precision is what we’ll need. The stages are so fast that any time loss is hard to recover. You need to have precise notes and the confidence to drive to the maximum. We’ve shown some pretty good speed here in the past so, if we can couple that with a clean run, anything is possible,” said the Welshman.
After winning the opening two rounds, Evans (above) has seen his lead slashed by Suninen. The Finn took maximum points in Mexico, Italy and Poland and is now just five points behind.
Tidemand lies fourth in the standings, 31 points off the lead, but the Swede has started fewer rounds than his rivals.
“You can’t afford to make any mistakes here, since it is almost impossible to make up significant losses of time on these incredibly fast tracks. The competition will be strong once again. Elfyn and Teemu were on top form last time around and I expect them to be strong again in this rally,” he said.
Hoping to make up lost ground is Finn Esapekka Lappi (Fabia R5), who won in Finland last year. He is seventh in the points but victory would catapult him up the order.
Other leading contenders include Marius Aasen (Fiesta R5), Quentin Gilbert (DS 3 R5), whose season has been blighted by mechanical problems, Estonian Karl Kruuda and Australian Scott Pedder.
Toyota Gazoo development drivers Hiroki Arai and Takamoto Katsuta (both Fiesta R5s) make their WRC debuts while Pierre-Louis Loubet will start despite rolling his DS 3 R5 in testing on Monday (pictures courtesy of www.niskanen.kuvat.fi).