Esapekka Lappi finally broke Ott Tänak’s sequence of speed test victories at Neste Rally Finland when he topped the times during Saturday afternoon’s repeated Kakaristo stage.
Stage info: SS16/17
SS17: Tuohikotanen 2, 8.95km
Saturday’s new addition offers a variety of challenges and requires precision. The beginning is classic Rally Finland: mid-sized roads that keep twisting and turning. A deceiving right-hander at 3.5km could catch a few out, as the road falls away. After turning right at 5km, it’s fast all the way to the finish, with a couple of big jumps.
SS18: Kakaristo 2, 23.66km
The legendary Ouninpohja is missing from this year’s itinerary but Kakaristo features many of the same roads. It starts with a tricky small road before turning onto the traditional big Ouninpohja route at 5.5km. Later comes the instantly recognisable Kakaristo junction, before which is the fast left where Craig Breen rolled in 2012. A deceptive crest a couple of kilometres before the finish must be treated with caution.
Leader Tänak won all four morning special stages and the afternoon’s opening Tuohikotanen test before Toyota Yaris team-mate Lappi stopped the run, defeating the Estonian by 2.0sec.
“A few corners went really perfectly. OK, there’s not much space to make a mistake but it was a nice run,” said Lappi.
Having shared top billing with fellow countryman Jari-Matti Latvala in Tuohikotanen, Tänak was third in Kakaristo and showed the first flicker of concern from inside his Yaris all weekend.
“Conditions are much more rough now and I had to avoid a lot of stones. Some issue with the power steering but I think it is driveable,” said Tänak’ whose advantage over Mads Østberg rose to 32.4sec.
Østberg was having a far from easy afternoon. His decision to carry two spare medium compound tyres onboard his Citroën C3 instead of one had an effect as the additional weight altered the car’s handling characteristics.
He was sixth in both tests and said: “It makes the car quite difficult to drive. I’m fighting for the stages instead of driving them. I don’t know what to do exactly,” said the Norwegian.
His advantage over Latvala was down to 11.8sec. Latvala was second in Kakaristo and a few small changes to his Yaris’ set-up were paying dividends, despite a somewhat cautious approach to the rougher sections.
Haydon Paddon’s brake problems were solved in service but the New Zealander had Lappi to worry about. The gap between them was only 9.3sec. Teemu Suninen rounded off the top six in his Ford Fiesta, heading team-mates Sébastien Ogier and Elfyn Evans.
SS14/15: Ott’s clean sweep
Four wins from four for Finland leader
SS12/13: Tänak storms clear
Estonian wins Saturday’s opening two tests
Friday in Finland: Ott edges revitalised Østberg
Daylong struggle for championship leader Neuville