Jari Huttunen made a sensational WRC 2 debut to lead the category at Neste Rally Finland on Friday night.
The young Finn was driving a four-wheel drive car for only the second time in his career, but took charge of the WRC’s principal support category to lead by 56.2sec in his Skoda Fabia R5.
Huttunen drove the car for the first time on a local rally two weeks ago, but won nine of today’s 12 speed tests to lead the similar car of the more experienced Quentin Gilbert.
He survived a scare after drifting into a field this afternoon, but stretched his advantage after seeing off challenges from Juuso Nordgren’s Fabia and Ford Fiesta R5 drivers Gus Greensmith and Pierre-Louis Loubet.
Greensmith was second before a broken driveshaft cost the Briton a place. Worse was to come when a pace note error caught him out on a tightening corner and he damaged the rear right of the car and retired.
Nordgren also ran second before plunging to eighth when he damaged a wheel and dropped 2min 20sec, while Loubet crashed when in pursuit of Huttunen.
Fabio Andolfi snatched third from Hiroki Arai in the final stage. The Italian’s advantage was just 3.9sec over the Japanese driver, who dropped time after a pop-off valve problem cost vital power in his Fiesta.
Britons Tom Cave and Osian Pryce were fifth and sixth. Cave finished the day with three-wheel braking after a leaking pipe delayed his Hyundai i20 R5, while Pryce struggled to find a perfect set-up on his second prize drive in a Fiesta R5.
2016 Junior WRC champion Simone Tempestini also found it hard to adapt his car to the demands of Friday’s stages. The Romanian ended in ninth place.
Head to WRC+ to see the latest onboard and video reports from Neste Rally Finland.