Ott Tänak cast aside a barren run of form to claim a masterful victory at Neste Rally Finland in a Toyota Yaris - the fourth win of his career. Here’s how he achieved it.
Leg 1: Friday
Tänak ended a compelling day on blisteringly fast sun-kissed roads with a 5.8sec advantage, following a titanic battle with Mads Østberg in which they traded top billing on four occasions.
He won four speed tests over roads on his Toyota Gazoo Racing team’s doorstep, compared to three for Østberg, who relished improved handling on his upgraded Citroën C3.
Toyota’s Jari-Matti Latvala was third, 17.3sec further back, and the Finn, three times a winner of the rally, ended 13.3sec clear of Hayden Paddon. The Kiwi and Teemu Suninen swapped places on several occasions but the Finnish youngster fell back with brake problems.
It was a tough day for championship leader Thierry Neuville and title rival Sébastien Ogier. Both struggled for grip at the front of the field and Neuville’s day worsened when he swiped a tree with his Hyundai i20. He ended 10th.
Ogier limited his losses in a Ford Fiesta. The Frenchman was sixth, almost a minute clear of Neuville. Andreas Mikkelsen dropped three minutes when he rolled his i20.
Leg 2: Saturday
Tänak dominated the second leg to close on his second victory of the season. Five consecutive speed test victories carried him into a 39.0sec lead over Østberg, despite nursing a steering problem through the final three stages.
Østberg’s decision to carry a second spare wheel in the afternoon proved costly. The additional weight transformed his C3’s handling and enabled Latvala to close to within 5.4sec.
Esapekka Lappi ended Tänak’s run of stage victories and reeled off three fastest times of his own to climb from eighth to fourth in the third Yaris. Hayden Paddon was fifth, despite brake problems and high tyre wear, with Teemu Suninen heading a trio of Ford Fiestas in sixth.
Leg 3: Sunday
Tänak eased through the final day to win by 32.7sec. He kept some pace in reserve to win the rally-closing Power Stage and claim maximum points, rekindling his slim title hopes after a disappointing weekend for Neuville and Ogier.
Østberg fended off Latvala’s final day charge to secure his best result for more than three years. Paddon and Ogier were next after Suninen deliberately checked in late at a control, incurring a penalty which dropped him behind team-mate Ogier and gave the Frenchman extra points in his title bid.
Esapekka Lappi rolled out of fourth in the opening test.