WRC 2 in Finland:
Pietarinen gifted Saturday lead
Skoda Fabia driver Eerik Pietarinen was gifted Saturday's WRC 2 lead at Neste Rally Finland after long-time leader Kalle Rovanperä wrecked his front suspension on the day's penultimate stage.
Fellow Skoda driver Rovanperä won five stages as he extended his overnight lead to 54.0secs before a mistake midway through SS18 when he ran wide and hit a rock. The impact damaged the damper on his Fabia R5, which punched up through the bonnet along with the spring.
He completed the stage and, along with co-driver Jonne Halttunen, lashed up a rudimentary fix with ratchet straps and cable ties. Despite this temporary repair - and the bonnet flipping up and obscuring his vision for the majority of the final stage - the youngster made it to the end of the leg in fourth place.
Rovanperä wasn't the only Skoda Motorsport driver to hit trouble on the afternoon loop as his team-mate Ole Christian Veiby was forced to retire after crashing out of third place on Päijälä. The incident undid the work the Norwegian had done throughout the day to reclaim a spot on the provisional podium after an off on Friday.
Benefitting from their misfortune was Pietarinen. Making his category debut this weekend, he took two stage wins in the afternoon to open up a 37.1sec lead over Jari Huttunen in a Hyundai i20 R5.
Completing the podium positions was Gus Greensmith in his Ford Fiesta R5. The Briton was troubled by imprecise pace notes on the Päijälä test and a damaged rear damper on SS14 but benefitted from Rovanperä and Veiby's more serious troubles to move up from fifth.
Fifth place was held by Pierre-Louis Loubet. The Hyundai driver was closer to the leading pace than he was on Friday, but his 50sec penalty for checking into a time control late yesterday cost him the chance of heading Rovanperä.
Retiring from sixth place on the second run of Kakaristo was Nicolas Ciamin. The Frenchman went off the road and damaged the roll cage in his i20. He won't restart tomorrow. Benito Guerra inherited the position, the Mexican having a clean run despite being dissatisfied with his pace.
Former Finnish 'Future Rally Star' Emil Lindholm's day ended on the first test as he rolled his Skoda Fabia into a ditch. Simone Tempestini also crashed in his Citroën C3 R5, while Murat Bostanci, Lars Stugemo and Jouni Virtanen all retired with mechanical issues.
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