We round-up our Neste Rally Finland debrief by naming our top driver from the weekend and looking at who surprised us in the forest speedfest.
Driver of the Rally
Well, we’re not short of candidates here. There was Ott Tänak’s majestic drive to victory in which he never put a foot wrong, Craig Breen’s stunning pace after almost nine months away from the WRC and Andreas Mikkelsen’s return to form after a season of under-achievement.
All were worthy of our accolade – but Esapekka Lappi even more so.
It has been hard to raise a smile from the Finn this season as he has struggled to find his feet in Citroën’s C3. 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. And, boy, was it great to see!
Surprise of the Rally
OK, so we didn’t name him driver of the rally. But Breen’s pace on his first WRC outing in a Hyundai i20 was exceptional.
Nobody could have predicted he would be the Korean squad’s top-placed driver after the opening leg. Team boss Andrea Adamo handed him a chance – and he took it. Will we see more of the Irishman this season?
Save of the Rally
Pierre-Louis Loubet dominated WRC 2 for the opening two legs in his Skoda Fabia. The Corsican built a lead of more than a minute over Nikolay Gryazin and was in management mode by late Saturday afternoon.
However, in the day’s final Leustu stage he misheard a pace note for a tight corner and his Fabia’s rear smashed into a tree. He was pulled out by spectators but plunged to fourth – his hopes of a third straight category win gone.
His team made repairs and Loubet steered safely through the final leg in fourth, the points salvaged leaving him just six adrift of championship leader Benito Guerra.
A great save? Time will tell.