Finland Debrief: Part Two
In the second part of our reflections on Neste Rally Finland, we take a look back at a Saturday morning turning point and a driver who will not want to remember last weekend in a hurry.
Stage of the rally
Stage 23 – Ruuhimäki 2 – summed up the spirit of this year’s Rally Finland in one hit. Over its 11.12km, this action-packed Live TV Power Stage had a bit of everything, including some awesome crest sequences and an absolute monster of a jump to finish.
Some crews elected to tackle the final leap with caution, but not Sébastien Ogier. The Frenchman looked to secure maximum bonus points and sent his M-Sport Ford Fiesta off the top like a jet leaving Helsinki airport.
One to forget
Finland has never been one of the Hyundai team’s strongest events, and this year Andreas Mikkelsen was the latest of its drivers to have a weekend to forget there.
The Norwegian’s rally started on a low note after a crash on SS4 damaged his i20, and he never really recovered from that early setback. He was then unexpectedly promoted (or demoted) to road opener on Saturday after Khalid Al Qassimi put his Citroën into a ditch on the day’s first stage – setting Mikkelsen on the slippery road to 10th place.
Turning point of the rally
After a day-long battle between Ott Tänak and Mads Østberg on Friday, spectators hoped for more of the same back-and-forth action when the fight resumed on Saturday morning.
The Toyota driver, though, had other ideas. Posting five stage wins in a row allowed the Estonian to pull clear, extending his lead from 5.8sec to 27.0sec. Østberg could offer no reply and his focus shifted to fending off the advances of Jari-Matti Latvala.
Surprise of the rally
It’s often said that local knowledge is crucial in Finland. And certainly, competitors that have grown up driving on the country’s gravel roads are often super quick on their home stages. Still, it is always a surprise to see a new face make an instant impact at WRC level – and that’s just what championship debutant Eerik Pietarinen did by winning WRC 2.
We expect this isn’t the last we’ll hear from the current leader of the Finnish championship.
Finland Debrief: Part One
We look back at the eighth round of the WRC
Ogier to keep aero upgrade
Champion keeps faith with revised Fiesta
Neuville relieved by minimal points loss
Belgian’s championship lead reduced after Finland struggle