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WRC Rally Finland

WRC Finland: Tanak sees off Rovanpera to claim remarkable win

Hyundai’s Ott Tanak held off runaway World Rally Championship leader Kalle Rovanpera to claim a stunning victory at Rally Finland.

Tanak and co-driver Martin Jarveoja produced one of the best drives of their WRC careers to tame a Hyundai i20 N that is short of being the best car in the championship to defeat Rovanpera on home soil by 6.8s after an intense duel.

The 2019 world champion assumed the lead on Stage 2 on Friday, and from there the Estonian was on maximum attack delivering a string of blistering stages times to fend off a trio of Toyotas competing on the WRC team’s home soil.

Esapekka Lappi headed those chasing Tanak closing to within 3.8s of Tanak on Friday night. However, on Saturday, Tanak came under severe pressure from a charging Rovanpera, who opened the roads on Friday. 

The Finn rode his own luck at times suffering two wide moments while attempting to reel in Tanak. The 21-year-old made most of tricky wet conditions to ignite his surge up the leaderboard from fourth to second. Five stage wins helped the Totyota driver close to within 8.3s heading into Sunday’s final four stages.

However, Tanak continued to attack, extending his lead over Rovanpera before sharing a stage win for the second time during the event. Tanak then held his nerve over the remaining two stages to deny the Finn a home victory, while Rovanpera claimed the five bonus points on the powerstage to extend his championship lead to 94 points. 

The win is Tanak’s and Hyundai’s second of the season following a triumph in Sardinia in June. It is also the Estonian’s third Rally Finland win alongside successes in 2018 and 2019, joining Jari-Matti Latvala (2010, 2014 2015), Sebastien Loeb (2008, 2011, 2012), Juha Kankkunen (1991, 1993, 1999), Simo Lampinen (1963, 1964, 1972), Osmo Kalpala (1954, 1956 1958) as three-time event winners. 

Kalle Rovanpera, Jonne Halttunen, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Kalle Rovanpera, Jonne Halttunen, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Photo by: Toyota Racing

Lappi managed to somehow secure the final podium spot despite rolling his GR Yaris on the penultimate stage. The Finn ran wide into a ditch at a left hander which resulted in his car rolling three times, damaging the rear wing, windscreen and the radiator.

Lappi was able to to recover and lost only 18s maintaining his third position, before stopping by a nearby lake to fetch water to attempt to re-fill and patch up the leaking radiator. This incident followed a freak moment on Saturday that effectively ended his victory hopes when a rock cracked his windscreen, which severely restricted visibility.

Toyota’s Elfyn Evans brought his GR Yaris home in fourth after struggling to match the pace of the frontrunners for match of the rally. A-left rear suspension issues put him out of the fight for a podium on Saturday.

Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville avoided issues but was unable to find the confidence to push in his unpredictable i20 N, and ended the rally 2m18.0s adrift in fifth. Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta continued his run of finishing every event in the points in sixth, while Gus Greensmith headed M-Sport’s charge in seventh.

Pierre-Louis Loubet appeared on course to finish eighth before an electrical issue struck prior to the final stage, forcing the Frenchman into retirement.  

M-Sport team leader Craig Breen had been amongst the front runners until Saturday when he ripped the right-rear from his car after hitting a grass bank. The Irishman returned on Sunday.

Stablemates Adrien Fourmaux and Rally1 debutant Jari Huttunen both reached the finish albeit outside of the top 10. Fourmaux lost ground after hitting as rock on Friday before a power steering issue cost him more time. 

Huttunen impressed to hold eighth on Friday but a fuel pressure issue dropped him outside the Top 10. The Finn would go on to finish in 11th position.   

Hyundai’s Oliver Solberg was the only Rally1 retirement after crashing out on the first corner of Friday’s opening stage.    

In WRC2, Teemu Suninen took a home victory from compatriot Emil Lindholm by 7.7s.  

UPDATE: Suninen has since been disqualified from the event after the front bumper on his i20 was found to be underweight, handing Lindholm the victory. It also means Huttunen has been promoted to ninth.           

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