Rally Finland 2019 Review – Ott Tanak takes his second Rally Finland Victory in a row!

Ott Tanak and his co-driver Martin Jarveoja have taken their second victory on the incredible roads in Finland. Here’s the story of how it all came together for the young Estonian pairing.

Friday

With ten stages on day one and Ott Tänak opening the road, it would be interesting if his championship rivals could take advantage and get ahead of him on the leaderboard.  The start list looked like this – Tänak, Ogier, Neuville, Suninen, Meeke, Mikkelsen, Lappi, Latvala, Greensmith, Breen.

The first stage of the day, SS 2 – Oittila (19,34 km), and it was a stage victory for Jari-Matti, with Lappi and Meeke second and third fastest. Ott though was only nine tenths off his teammates pace and held the overall lead from his teammates. Ogier and Neuville held fifth and ninth at this point.

Into SS 3 – Moksi 1 (20,04 km) then and Kris set a great pace and, but you could argue Ott was even better with second fastest time, with Jari-Matti in third. In the Hyundai camp, Craig Breen, with Paul Nagle alongside him was going well and setting some great times and held sixth overall at the end of this stage, ahead of both Andreas and Thierry.

Jari-Matti won SS 4 – Urria 1 (12,28 km) from Craig, with Esapekka and Ott setting the same time to both go third fastest. Craig’s pace allowed him to pass Seb, taking fifth overall at this point. The M-Sport duo of Teemu and Gus were down in eighth and tenth, with Thierry between them. Incredibly, Ott still held the lead.

SS 5 – Ässämäki 1 (12,33 km) saw Ott take stage victory, 1.1 seconds ahead of Craig, who increased the gap to Seb. Esapekka and Andreas were equal third fastest. Kris was now 4.2 seconds from his teammate in second place. Further back, Thierry passed Teemu, moving into eighth position.

The final stage before the service break, SS 6 – Äänekoski 1 (7,80 km) and Jari-Matti took it by just a tenth of a second from Craig, who was clearly getting very comfortable in his Hyundai. Latvala’s pace lifted him above Kris, the Finn retaking second overall. It had been a good morning for Tommi’s team, winning every stage so far.

After lunchtime service, there was a change in the lead, after Jari-Matti won SS 7 – Moksi 2 (20,04 km) with Esapekka and Kris just one tenth of a second slower. Ott emerged in second overall, now just four tenths off the lead. The gap between Craig and Seb reduced a little in their battle over fifth position.

Andreas won SS 8 – Urria 2 (12,28 km), breaking the stranglehold that Toyota had held on stage victories, with Esapekka and Jari-Matti second and third fastest. The outcome of all of this was Jari-Matti held the lead by just six tenths of a second from Esapekka, Ott and Kris who were all on the same overall time. Andreas’ pace was enough to move him ahead of Seb and into sixth place. Incredibly, Craig was now just ten seconds from the lead, and feeling very comfortable.

Jari-Matti took SS 9 – Ässämäki 2 (12,33 km) from Esapekka, with Kris in third, and these were the top three as well. Craig lost a little time to Andreas, but still held fifth overall. Sadly, the two Fiesta’s were in ninth and tenth place, and it was a surprise to see Teemu so far off the pace.

It was an incredible SS 10 – Äänekoski 2 (7,80 km), with Jari-Matti and Kris sharing the fastest time, plus Seb and Andreas equal second fastest, and this had the result of Kris moving ahead of Esapekka, pushing the Finn down to third overall.

The final stage of the day then, SS 11 – Harju 2 (2,31 km) and it was a second stage victory for the Hyundai Motorsport team, with Thierry winning the stage from Seb and Kris, who set the same time. The top four were separated by just 2.6 seconds. Just incredibly close!

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1

  1. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) 1:04:01.1
  2. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1.2
  3. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +2.4
  4. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2.6
  5. Breen / Nagle (Hyundai i20 WRC) +14.2
  6. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +14.6
  7. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +15.3
  8. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +30.9
  9. Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +52.6
  10. Greensmith / Edmondson (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:38.3

 

Here’s the thoughts of the drivers after day one.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala (1st)

“It’s been a really good day. There were a couple of stages where the time was a little bit down, but generally I was able to have a strong performance. It has been so tight and the pressure has really been on, so it’s pleasing to be able to keep up the speed and not make mistakes when you’re trying to find the difference anywhere you can. Tomorrow I think the morning loop is going to be crucial because there are some new sections, and the profile of the road is generally a bit different: Wider with more crests and jumps.”

Kris Meeke (2nd)

“It’s been a good day I’ve really enjoyed it. In Finland it’s so important to make a good start and get away with the lead group, and we were able to do that this morning. The stages and the pace-notes were new to me on the first pass, so I could be a lot calmer this afternoon with that knowledge. I think there was a bit more road cleaning on the second pass but I think we made the most of our position. It’s so close between the top four, so it’s going to be exciting to see how it develops tomorrow.”

Ott Tänak (4th)

“Generally, I’m feeling pretty good at the end of the day. The conditions were challenging running first on the road, but in the morning, I had a good flow from the beginning, the car was working well and so I could focus on the driving. This afternoon the conditions were much tougher, and it was a bit frustrating as I was pushing hard and we lost a few places. But we are still very close, and tomorrow we should have a much better road position than we had today, so everything is to play for.”

Citroën Total WRT

Esapekka Lappi (3rd)

“It’s good to be back among the frontrunners and on the pace, especially at this rally, which means so much to us as Finns! My C3 WRC was perfect today and I really enjoyed driving on these stages. It’s crazy that the gaps are so small after such a long day. It looks like it will be a huge battle at the front tomorrow, but you can count on us to keep fighting!”

Esapekka Lappi on a charge. Photo credit, Citroen Racing

Sébastien Ogier (7th)

“I think we had a very good day. I was comfortable in the C3 WRC, but our position in the running order certainly didn’t make our lives any easier. I would’ve loved to end this first day in a better position so we could start further down the running order tomorrow, but I will at least have more cars ahead of me than today. It’s still very tight, so we have to keep pushing as hard as we can. We’re still in the fight to score some big points.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Craig Breen (5th)

“It has been an unbelievable day and it’s gone better than I could have ever imagined. I have missed the feeling of being back in the WRC so I’ve felt on top of the world. I won’t be completely happy until we’re banging in the quickest times but I have picked up confidence in the car as the day has gone on, and that is half the battle. I have not been getting carried away; my goal is to support the team as best I can, taking no risks. The Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC is probably the finest car I’ve ever driven and to get the opportunity to drive on these Finnish roads is something very special. The times have been incredibly close; it’s really testament to the quality of the WRC that one second in a stage can make such a big difference on timesheets. I can’t wait for tomorrow.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (6th)

“We’ve had a pretty good day and I’m happy with what we’ve achieved. The morning loop was clean and the times were incredibly close. I planned to ramp things up a bit in the afternoon, and we were able to take a stage win. The feeling inside the car has been really nice and it’s been highly enjoyable to drive. We’ve struggled on these high-speed gravel stages before so it’s nice to see our work taking steps in the right direction. I’d like to say thanks to everyone at Hyundai Motorsport who have worked so hard on the car for this event; there’s been no summer vacation there to get a perfect job done.”

Thierry Neuville (8th)

“We started the rally in a very positive frame of mind and with a stage win on Thursday evening. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to replicate that during Friday’s stages. The feeling with the car itself was not so bad and we kept pushing hard during the day but we should have been able to set faster stage times. We have tried a number of different things but something hasn’t quite clicked yet. The rally is still long so we’ll continue to give it everything we’ve got.”

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (9th)

“It’s really hard for a Finn when they’re not fast in Finland, and it’s been a really disappointing day for us. The driving feels good, but we are struggling to find the pace. In the past I have been beating Ogier and Tänak in the same car, so I know I can be fast here. But we are missing something this weekend, and need to do our homework and try to be faster.”

Gus Greensmith (10th)

“I can’t say today wasn’t enjoyable – it was amazing – but the learning curve was as big as the jumps – massive! Obviously, we started off quite cautiously in the morning and the times weren’t really where we wanted them to be. I managed to be there or thereabouts with my team-mate in the afternoon which was really good, but there seems to be a big gap to those further ahead. We’ll try a few different things tomorrow, and I’m sure the time will come to us.”

Saturday

Being the longest day, with eight stages totalling 133km. The startlist looked like this – Greensmith, Suninen, Neuville, Ogier, Mikkelsen, Breen, Tänak, Lappi, Meeke, Latvala. We found out that Seb had a bad night’s sleep as well, after he’d been sick throughout the night. It would make his day interesting indeed.

Ott took the first stage, SS 12 – Pihlajakoski 1 (14,42 km) and jumped straight into the lead. Esapekka was second fastest and Jari-Matti third. Andreas was also on the move, passing Craig for fifth position. Further down the field, Kalle Rovanpera was driving his Skoda Fabia R5 out of his skin, posting an almost four seconds faster time than Gus Greensmith.

Into SS 13 – Päijälä 1 (22,87 km) and it was a 1-2-3 for Toyota with Kris leading Jari-Matti and Ott. Ott fell to second overall, although just two tenths of a second from new leader and teammate Jari-Matti. Also, on the move was Craig, who repassed Andreas in their battle over fifth place.

Into SS 14 – Kakaristo 1 (18,70 km) and Ott retook the lead. It wasn’t a happy time though at Toyota, as Kris and Jari-Matti both damaged their cars. Kris was out for the day, after breaking his suspension, whilst Jari-Matti had a bit more luck only damaging a tyre. There were a few more changes on the leaderboard, with Esapekka, Andreas and Seb moving up ahead of Craig who was now in sixth place after the demise of Kris.

SS 15 – Leustu 1 (10,50 km) was won by Jari-Matti, beating Ott who continued to hold a strong 13 second lead over his remaining teammate. Esapekka had made third place his, and Seb closed a little on Andreas for fourth place.

Esapekka won SS 16 – Pihlajakoski 2 (14,42 km) and jumped ahead of Jari-Matti into second place. Seb backed up his younger teammate, going second fastest and passing Andreas as well and moving into fourth place. The gap between Andreas and Craig remained very small as well.

The status quo continued in SS 17 – Päijälä 2 (22,87 km), with Ott winning from Esapekka who increased the gap he had over Jari-Matti, whilst Craig edged closer to Andreas. Gus Greensmith was doing his best to learn the stages, but he was struggling out there, now over three and a half minutes off the lead.

SS 18 – Kakaristo 2 (18,70 km) saw Esapekka win, pipping Ott by just half a second, whilst Andreas moved ahead of Seb into fourth place, but only by four tenths of a second. Could Seb take back the position in the following stage? The two M-Sport Fiesta’s were two minutes and four minutes off the lead sadly, just down to the fact that they were opening the road.

The final stage of the day then, SS 19 – Leustu 2 (10,50 km) and it was a stage win for Andreas, thus increasing the gap between him and Seb, who had driven well given his lack of sleep, whilst Ott was only one tenth slower, thus maintaining a sixteen second lead over Esapekka.

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:08:49.4
  2. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +16.4
  3. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +28.8
  4. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +50.5
  5. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +53.1
  6. Breen / Nagle (Hyundai i20 WRC) +59.1
  7. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:19.3
  8. Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2:05.3
  9. Greensmith / Edmondson (Ford Fiesta WRC) +4:09.7

 

Here’s the thoughts of the drivers then after day two.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

“It’s been a really good day. This morning it was really intense as everyone was pushing hard. It was good that we were able to build a bit of a gap to Esapekka [Lappi], as this afternoon he did a very good job, and we had to follow his pace. At the same time, I felt really comfortable in the car and it was working very well. In the very rough places, I was a bit more careful, but in the smooth and fast sections I really enjoyed it and we had a good rhythm. I think our advantage is good but there is still some way to go so there is still a lot of focus needed.”

Ott Tänak moved into the lead on Saturday. Photo credit, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala (3rd)

“We had a fantastic morning speed-wise, fighting for the lead with our team-mates, and I had a really good feeling with the car. But in Kakaristo I was too fast in a right-hander, ran wide into a ditch and hit a big rock. In the afternoon, I knew that I couldn’t afford to make any more mistakes so I tried to find a comfortable speed where I would be avoiding risks. At the same time Esapekka was able to raise his pace, so I couldn’t match that. I’m a bit disappointed that I couldn’t find the right rhythm, but to get the points is the most important thing: To be on the podium tomorrow would be a really important result for myself, but also for the team.”

Kris Meeke (Retired/Rally2)

“It had been an incredible fight from the beginning of the rally, and I was enjoying it again this morning: I was in a good rhythm and the car felt phenomenal. In Kakaristo, we came to a fast, fifth-gear right-hand corner, and I just dropped a wheel off the camber on the outside. Normally that wouldn’t be a big problem but there was a massive rock just sitting in the ditch, and I didn’t know it was there, so it was a big surprise. I’m gutted: When the battle is so close like that, and everyone’s trying to do their best for the team, it’s very disappointing to have to stop.”

Citroën Total WRT

Esapekka Lappi (2nd)

“Obviously, it’s been a very positive day for us! After what happened in the morning loop, I was expecting to suffer on the second runs on these wide and fast stages, but I really went for it and it has worked out pretty well for me so far. We found the right balance to push without overdriving the stages or drifting outside of the lines. I’m going to continue at the same pace tomorrow and am absolutely determined to secure the result.”

Sébastien Ogier (5th)

“I’m pleased that it’s over because I was running really low on energy this afternoon. I can’t wait to get to bed, to be honest. I had to really push myself all day so I’m glad to have made it through the leg without making any mistakes because it was sometimes very difficult to keep up the concentration. Tomorrow will be another day and I hope that I will be able to recover sufficiently tonight so that I can do myself justice and fight all the way to the finish.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Andreas Mikkelsen (4th)

“It has been an epic fight, with positions changing hands back and forth throughout the day. I’ve enjoyed it, competing with everything we have on some truly beautiful stages. It’s been really cool. The car has given me all the confidence I need on both loops. We made a few adjustments to our pace notes for the afternoon, specifically for the wider sections, and although it was rough at times we gave it our maximum. The second run through Kakaristo was just what we needed to keep hold of fourth place. Following that up with our second stage win of the weekend was perfect. A lot of fun!”

Craig Breen (6th)

“There were a few more struggles compared to yesterday, mainly on the narrower sections where I lacked confidence. I’ve never had such a stable car so it takes time to get used to committing fully. SS17 was a particular highlight today; there was not a millimetre left out on the stage and I think it was one of the best stages of my entire career. We didn’t end the day so positively, unfortunately. We lowered the ride height of the car for the last stage but the conditions were rougher than we expected so we lost a bit of time. We are still in a close battle and there are plenty of positives from today.”

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 09, Rally Finland
01-04 August 2019
Craig Breen, Paul Nagle, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville (7th)

“A much better feeling and a more positive day overall. Of course, the road cleaning has made life far from perfect but we’re trying to enjoy ourselves and work within the confines of what is possible. We lost too much time yesterday but everyone is pushing really hard and we have to keep an eye on the championship, rather than a single stage result. I don’t think we could have done much more today. The only slight disappointment was picking up a bit of rear damage late in the afternoon loop. Even if we’re not in the position we would like to be, we have to accept where we can make a difference, and salvage what we can from the weekend.”

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (8th)

“We went a bit softer with the car this morning to try and find some more traction, but it makes the car quite unpredictable. We went back to the base set-up for the afternoon, and that felt better. Now we need to get the confidence to drive on the limits and get the most out of the car.”

Gus Greensmith (9th)

“It’s been pretty tricky for us out there today. We tried some big set-up changes this morning, but it didn’t work out. The car felt much better in the afternoon and I was really enjoying the driving, but we had to clear a line through the ruts left by the national crews. I know tomorrow’s stages pretty well, so I think I’ll give it bit of a push to see how good I am at cleaning the road – but not too much, because I promised Rich that I would bring the car back in one piece!”

Sunday

The final day beckoned, with four stages totalling 45km. The startlist looked like this – Meeke, Greensmith, Suninen, Neuville, Breen, Ogier, Mikkelsen, Latvala, Lappi, Tänak.

Ott picked up from where he left and won SS 20 – Laukaa 1 (11,75 km), with Seb, who was feeling much better, and Jari-Matti his closest challengers. Esapekka made it past through – last year this was the stage that saw him crash out. Kris restarted as well, setting the ninth fastest time. Ott now had a lead of twenty seconds over Esapekka.

Seb had problems in SS 21 – Ruuhimäki 1 (11,12 km), with something moving around in his footwell. Jari-Matti won the stage, going through seven tenths faster than Andreas who had really made fourth overall his own. Seb still managed to be third fastest in the stage, making us wonder how much faster he’d have been without his issues. Sadly, Gus retired from the rally on this stage.

Into SS 22 – Laukaa 2 (11,75 km), the penultimate stage, and Andreas was quickest, with Esapekka and Seb just a few tenths slower in second and third. The big news from this stage was that Craig had taken a twenty second penalty, thus allowing Thierry through into sixth place. Also, Kris broke his suspension, bringing his return to the action to a premature end.

The final stage then, SS 23 – Ruuhimäki 2 Power Stage (11,12 km) and you’d have forgiven the leader if he’d taken it easy. However, he flew through the stage and was almost seven tenths faster than Thierry, with Andreas, Seb and Jari-Matti finishing off the fastest five, and thus taking the powerstage points.

FINAL STANDINGS

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:30.40.3
  2. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +25.6
  3. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +33.2
  4. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +53.4
  5. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +56.1
  6. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:32.4
  7. Breen / Nagle (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:38.2
  8. Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2:33.8

 

Let’s hear then from the drivers!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

“It feels really good to get this victory. It was very important to get a good result here to help us in both championships. I would say that this is a perfect result to begin the second part of the season. I think it’s a great boost for the whole team and now we need to keep pushing. I focused on having a clean run through the first three stages today, and then on the Power Stage I pushed. I tried to have a fast and clean run with no mistakes, and we were able to get the maximum points. Now we need to continue in the same way, starting with Germany.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (3rd)

“I’m really really Happy to be back on the podium here on Rally Finland. It has been almost nine months since I last had a podium, a really really long time. I think the opportunity was there to go for second place, but this time I think it was better not to take the risk. We really needed the points for the future, not just for myself but also for the team. Today I was more relaxed than yesterday afternoon and the performance was good. This result gives us more confidence to keep fighting for more podiums in the upcoming rallies.”

Kris Meeke (DNF)

“Restarting today, we didn’t have much to fight for with our road position, but I’m disappointed with myself for making a stupid error in the penultimate stage. On a long left-hander, I put car sideways and hesitated a little bit, and when I lifted off the throttle the car went more to the inside of the corner than I wanted it to. There was a big stone in the grass and we hit it. It’s really not been the weekend that I wanted, so we need to pick ourselves up before Germany.”

Citroën Total WRT

Esapekka Lappi (2nd)

“I’m very pleased for the team – they deserve this result for having been patient and supportive during the first part of the season, when things were difficult. We worked really hard – and well – together so that the C3 WRC suited my driving style more effectively, especially on the front diffs and I really felt full of confidence driving the car this weekend. I literally felt like I could do what I liked in it! From the first run in the shakedown, I knew that things were looking good. I now hope to keep up this level of performance for the rest of the season.”

Sébastien Ogier (5th)

“It was a tough weekend for us. To be honest, I had higher expectations at the start. As always, I gave it absolutely everything. For sure, Saturday’s leg – when I was really low on energy – didn’t help matters, but even today, when I felt better, unfortunately I wasn’t able to do more.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Andreas Mikkelsen (4th)

“Fourth place, even if it wasn’t quite a podium, means a huge amount to me. We have been involved in an incredibly close battle with Sébastien for much of the rally, and it has really come down every tenth of a second, fighting right to the very end. Thankfully, we had the speed and performance in the car, and the confidence in ourselves, to get the job done. It’s been a tough rally in the past, so it’s fantastic to have cracked the code this weekend. I have had a good feeling with the car all weekend and we’ve been able to set some competitive times. This is thanks to the efforts of the whole Hyundai Motorsport team over many months. We had some upgrades on the car for this rally, including some specifically to help my driving, which have worked wonders. I feel like my old self again!”

Thierry Neuville (6th)

“We gave it everything we had this weekend and it is important to focus on the positives. We were able to take away from really important points for both championships, including four from the Power Stage. We could not have done more. The car has shown an improvement in these fast gravel conditions, which is encouraging. We didn’t have the best of tests ahead of this rally, and I struggled to find the right feeling on Friday, which really dictated our weekend. We keep our heads high and look forward to the next one.

Craig Breen (7th)

“This has been an amazing rally I have to say. To have the opportunity to return to this level of rallying has been very special and I am incredibly grateful to everyone who has made it possible. I have enjoyed myself immensely as part of the Hyundai Motorsport team, and I was immediately comfortable in the car. We knew the job we had to do this weekend, and I think we’ve achieved that; it’s been a privilege to play our part in the team’s championship efforts.”

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (8th)

“It’s always fun driving in Finland, but it’s been frustrating to look at the times this weekend. We know that we have the pace, but this wasn’t our weekend. We weren’t able to challenge for the top positions, and have some homework to do before the next one”.

Teemu Suninen at speed. Photo credit, M-Sport WRT

Gus Greensmith (DNF)

“I thought I heard a pacenote that I knew I didn’t have in that stage [Ruuhimäki, SS21]. At that point I got distracted, tried to read the road, and then missed the braking for a sharp left. I tried to pull it round, but hit the tree and took the wheel off. It’s disappointing, but Elliott [Edmondson, co-driver] and myself are both okay which is obviously the most important thing.”

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Ott Tänak – 180 points
  2. Sébastien Ogier – 158 points
  3. Thierry Neuville – 155 points
  4. Elfyn Evans – 78 points
  5. Andreas Mikkelsen – 71 points
  6. Teemu Suninen – 66 points
  7. Kris Meeke – 60 points
  8. Esapekka Lappi – 58 points
  9. Jari-Matti Latvala – 56 points
  10. Dani Sordo – 50 points

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Hyundai WRT – 262 points
  2. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 236 points
  3. Citroën Total WRT – 198 points
  4. M-Sport Ford WRT – 158 points

Summary

An incredible drive then from Ott Tänak and co-driver Martin Jarveoja, who had kept his timeloss throughout Friday’s stages to a minimum, allowing him to get a great road position for the rest of the weekend. He didn’t panic as well, when his teammates started to challenge him at the top. Once they fell from the front, he made the event his own. Jari-Matti Latvala got away lucky I feel, after hitting the same rock as Kris Meeke, but only suffering a puncture and damage to the bodywork at the rear, rather than suspension damage. The Toyota team were looking at a 1-2-3 until that point.

FIA World Rally Championship 2019 / Round 09 / Rally Finland / 1-4 August, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Whether they’d have got that is a moot point, as Esapekka had his best event of the year, looking like he and the Citroen team had got the car to a point where he could show his considerable skills. The young Finns teammate and current world champion Seb suffered throughout Saturday, but came through to bag some important points for the defence of his world title.

Hyundai had an interesting event, with the regular drivers being overshadowed by Craig Breen throughout Friday, and the Irishman having to take a time penalty on Sunday to allow Thierry through into sixth place. Andreas drove really well to get up to fourth though, but if Seb and Kris had not had their problems, it’s fair to say would he have been behind them I suspect.

Finally, M-Sport didn’t have a great event. Teemu just couldn’t get on the pace, and after Hayden Paddon crashed during his test, they didn’t really have anyone to lead the team. Of course, they were missing Elfyn and Scott (who are the team leaders at the moment) as he recovers from the back injury sustained at last months Rally Estonia. Gus Greensmith did his best, given the circumstances – He’s still learning the way with the top spec WRC machine, plus had not competed in Finland before either – That’s a steep learning curve!

The next event is Rally Germany. It runs from the 22nd to the 25th of August. Look out for my preview in the days before.

Phil Hall’s Rally Finland diary.

Tuesday: Finland recce is always fun, I love getting back into these stages. I spent so much time in this area when I was competing with Tommi Makinen Racing that it feels like a second home. Today we recce’d six stages, a mixture of the traditional flat-out Finnish roads and newly added tighter and twisty sections.

Wednesday: More recce today, pacenotes in Finland are super-critical, the speed you are carrying, often in the air, means that you have to commit absolutely. The jumps require bravery and skill, because you can’t really turn a car when its wheels aren’t touching the road. Tom and I have been working really hard on our pacenotes over the last few weeks, and we can feel the difference here.

Thursday: A big day today, we had an early tyre meeting with Pirelli to help us decide on our tyre strategy and then straight into shakedown. Shakedown was extremely hot, and the weather continued throughout the weekend. We found a good set up and felt confident in the car. After lunch Tom had some PR engagements for the event, and I continued to work on the notes and strategy. Finally, in the evening we had the start of the rally and SS1 through the centre of Jyvaskyla.

Friday: The first proper day of rallying, we started with a good pace and settled in well. The new stage configuration of using smaller, narrower, rougher roads was tricky to say the least as they were still very fast in the little M-Sport Fiesta R2T. The Pirelli tyres worked really well, and our tyre strategy was giving us the grip we needed. I really enjoy these Finnish roads, it’s great to get a flow with the pacenotes and synch with the driver… it’s amazing how fast you can go.

Saturday: Iconic stages today, with the new narrower twist. We were locked in a great battle with New Zealand Champions Dave Holder/Jason Farmer, absolutely great guys and we were having a lot of fun – tiny gaps on every stage. Unfortunately, Dave and Jason picked up a double puncture on the second loop of stages dropping them out of contention. Meanwhile, we were feeling good in the car and especially in our pace notes – all the hard work since Portugal on our fitness, pace notes, and all-around performance, was really paying off.

Phil Hall jumps to best-ever JWRC finish with Tom Williams in Finland – Image credit M-Sport/JWRC

Sunday: 4 Stages. It’s not that far to hang on to our best result in the JWRC. Except this is Finland, and anything can happen. Finishing with the legendary Ruuhimaki test, and a monumental jump to finish (which we took absolutely flat, see the video on my social media), we kept on it to the very end and were rewarded with a fantastic result.  Now we are focusing on the next round of the JWRC in Turkey.

Phil Hall (L) celebrates with Tom Williams (R) – Image credit M-Sport/JWRC

Follow me on Instagram and Twitter (@PhilHallRally) for more behind the scenes JWRC stuff!

 

Rally Finland 2018 Review – Ott Tanak takes it!

After a fight through Friday with Mads Ostberg for the lead of this rally, Ott Tanak opened up a good lead through Saturday and then controlled his pace and 15 years after the last Estonian to win Rally Finland, took a very well-deserved victory. The championship protagonists found themselves playing bit parts further down the standings.

 

Here’s the story of how Rally Finland played out.

 

After Thursday’s short evening stage, Ott held the lead from Thierry and Seb.

 

The start list looked like this for Friday’s stages, running in championship order – Neuville, Ogier, Tänak, Lappi, Mikkelsen, Evans, Latvala, Breen, Ostberg, Suninen, Paddon, Al Qassimi. Ten stages awaited the crews out there.

 

The first stage of the day, SS2, was won by Ott, with Mads just behind, 1.3 seconds slower than the Toyota driver, with Teemu Suninen a further few seconds behind in third, and this was now the overall top three with Seb and Thierry now in seventh and ninth respectively. Craig suffered a puncture seven km’s into the twenty km stage, losing 47 seconds and falling to 18th overall. We would see a fightback from him through the rest of the rally.

 

Stage 3, a shorter 12km stage was won by Jari-Matti and with that, he passed Teemu, moving into a podium position. Craig put the disappointment of the puncture behind him and drove to second fastest, just eight tenths slower, whilst Ott increased the overall lead over Mads a little. Further back, Seb and Thierry were still in seventh and ninth, their road position hurting them.

 

Stage 4 saw a couple of dramatic moments – Mads took the lead after setting a great time 4.8 seconds faster than Ott and now in the lead by just half a second. However, Hyundai driver, Andreas went off the road, losing more than three minutes. Craig’s pace in the last two stages had brought him up into tenth overall.

 

The following stage, number 5 saw greater pace from Ott and coupled with some little mistakes from Mads, he retook the lead, by just 1.1 seconds. A mistake from Thierry saw him drop behind Craig and the Belgian was now over a minute behind the leader. Hayden though was now the top Hyundai driver, just nine tenths slower and second fastest, meaning he was now in fourth overall.

 

Midday service followed this stage, and then it was time to tackle the remaining six stages.

 

Mads started off in a strong way, winning stage 6 and retaking the lead from Ott and with Teemu going several seconds quicker than Jari-Matti and Hayden, he moved back into third overall! Showing how competitive these cars are three different cars in the top three, just nineteen seconds between them.

 

Mads and Ott continued their fight for the lead in stage 7, with them both setting identical times through the stage, the lead remaining at one tenth of a second. Jari-Matti retook third overall. Further back, Thierry remained in tenth overall, now one minute 41 from the lead, whilst Seb was in seventh, 54 seconds from first place.

 

Top three in stage 8 was Craig, Esapekka and Jari-Matti, whilst the overall top two were fifth and ninth fastest. It was Mads who opened up a gap of 1.9 seconds over Ott. The Norwegian was driving to a safe pace, knowing Ott wasn’t as fast.

 

The lead swapped again in stage 9 after Ott was fastest and with Mads nearly three seconds slower, the Estonian retook the lead by a second. Mads was not letting him get away, driving a sensible but fast stage as his tyres were quite worn. The rest of the positions in the top ten were pretty static though.

 

Stage 10 was won by Ott and with Mads seventh fastest there was now a 4.3 second gap between them. Further back, Hayden repassed Teemu in their battle over fourth place and Seb passed Elfyn, the Frenchman now in sixth. Craig set the fifth fastest time in the stage, despite starting to suffer with brake problems near the end.

 

The final stage of the day, 11, saw Seb set the fastest time from Ott and Thierry, who set identical times. Craig and Kalid suffered with fuel pressure problems in their C3’s, with Craig losing 27 seconds, but didn’t drop out of the top ten at least. A real shame for him, after a very good drive through the day after the puncture.

 

So, what a day. Toyota and Citroen both shared out the stage wins and Ott ended the day in the lead. Mads had driven really well, and had kept a great pace, leading at times as well.

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 1:02:26.0
  2. Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 WRC) + 5.8
  3. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 23.1
  4. Paddon / Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 36.4
  5. Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 46.1
  6. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 58.9
  7. Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 1:01.1
  8. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 1:01.4
  9. Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) + 1:34.1
  10. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:57.7

24. Al Qassimi / Patterson (Citroën C3 WRC) +8:28.5

 

Let’s hear from the drivers. Top three first.

 

Ott Tänak

“I am really happy with my day. Everything has been working just perfectly. I have a lot of confidence in the car and it is really nice to drive on these roads. Except for one moment where I stalled the engine and lost a bit of time, I did everything that I could. The roads have been pretty slippery with a lot of cleaning. Tomorrow, we will have the same conditions as the guys we have been fighting with today, which will be good, but it still won’t be easy.”

FIA World Rally Championship 2018 / Round 08 / Rally Finland 2018 / July 26-29, 2018 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Mads Østberg

“I’m delighted for everyone in the team that I have managed to produce such a solid performance. We have all worked so hard together in order to make it happen. I really enjoyed driving my C3 WRC throughout the whole day. We are now going to try and keep it up tomorrow!”

Jari-Matti Latvala

“I think today has been pretty good. On the first stage it was difficult to get into the rhythm, but then I found it on the second stage. I also made the car a bit stiffer to have some more stability, and since that I’ve been happy. I was a bit too careful on the first stage this afternoon but I was able to fight back and claim third position. I am enjoying the driving and hopefully I can improve a bit more tomorrow.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Teemu Suninen (5th)

“It’s been a tough day. We were fighting for a podium position but then we had a few issues and dropped down to fifth. The driving has been on an okay level, but there is still some more to find and I hope that I can find that tomorrow.”

Sébastien Ogier (6th)

“If I’m honest, I expected things to happen the way they did today. With the roads being so dry, it was a tough day for us and we lost some time for sure. That said, I have to say hats off to Ott [Tänak] because he has been flying. Starting just behind us, he was setting times which were really impressive to watch.

“I think I did more or less what I could today. Of course, I could have gone a little faster – a few tenths here and there – but then I would have needed to take some big risks. Our road position will be a bit better tomorrow, and hopefully we can find some small things to be a bit faster. It’s not been an easy day, but we’ll keep trying tomorrow.”

Elfyn Evans (7th)

“We can’t be completely satisfied as this isn’t really the position we were looking for. Although to be fair, it was pretty clear that the road evolution played a big part over the morning loop. With the exception of Ott [Tänak] who was just on a different planet, we were faster than everyone in front of us but the guys behind were faster than us.

“We then struggled on a few stages this afternoon so it was okay but not perfect. There’s still a long way to go, and Saturday was a really good day for us last year – so we have to try and let’s just see what happens.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon (4th)

“I think we can be pretty happy with our opening day, even if we could have probably taken a few more risks. We didn’t want to overdo it, because we were focused on getting the set-up right for the whole weekend. In the morning loop, we had to adapt to the conditions and our pace notes were a bit slow in places. From there, we started to enjoy the car and the stages more. We’ve been consistent, had good pace and that’s allowed us to stay in touch with the leading three. We’ve now got to build on this over the next two days.”

Thierry Neuville (10th)

“Starting first on the road, particularly in this event, makes life really tough from the outset. There was not much more we could do, as we struggled for grip and consistency. Things weren’t helped by the mistake in SS5 when we were too optimistic with a pace note. I was thinking about correcting it, but then missed the next one and ended up going straight into a ditch. We had to take it a bit easier after that. The mechanics did a great job at midday service to fix the car. We are losing some positions compared to Ogier, so we can’t really be happy but we knew it would be hard. We can only do our best in these circumstances and minimise the damage.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 08, Rally Finland
26-29 July 2018
Day 1
Action
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Andreas Mikkelsen

“It has been a very challenging start to Rally Finland for us. We made a mistake in SS4 during the morning loop, but we’ve struggled for pace throughout the day. You never want to make a mistake but I misheard a pace note. I thought Anders had said five minus, when it should have been four, which is quite a difference. We had a slow roll but were pushed back onto the stage by the Finnish spectators, who were very helpful. Thanks to my mechanics for getting us ready for the afternoon. We still have some work to do to get the right feeling but we will aim for a fresh start on Saturday.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Craig Breen (9th)

“In terms of the times, we had a good rhythm and overall, it was a good day. Obviously, it’s frustrating to have picked up a puncture this morning and then to have had the fuel problem this evening, but that’s the way it goes, I guess. It’s gone now, so we’re already focusing on tomorrow’s leg. We’ll try to enjoy ourselves on these magnificent roads and do even better.”

Craig Breen, Scott Martin – Photo credit, Citroen Racing

Khalid Al Qassimi (24th)

“I really liked the fast, typically Finnish stages. Less so the stages that were very narrow and rough, but I adopted a cautious approach in these sections in order to keep out of trouble. I’m going to try and up my pace during the rest of the rally.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Esapekka Lappi (8th)

“This morning was a bit of a struggle: I stalled in a junction in the first stage, which was very disappointing, and after that I was having difficulty finding a rhythm. In service the engineers found a small issue on the car and were able to fix it. After that, it started to go well and the speed was more like what I was expecting. Of course, I wanted to be fighting for the victory, but there are still two days to go and some good chances to gain positions.”

 

Saturday would see eight stages for the crews to tackle and the start order looked like this – Al Qassimi, Mikkelsen, Neuville, Breen, Lappi, Evans, Ogier, Suninen, Paddon, Latvala, Østberg, Tänak.

 

Starting with SS12, the top three was Ott, Mads and Jari-Matti and now Ott’s lead had increased over Mads and Latvala was now on a mission to catch Mads. Further down the leaderboard, Esapekka and Elfyn overtook Ogier, who was now down to eighth.

 

Into SS13 and Ott increased his lead over Mads, who in turn was doing enough to keep Jari-Matti at arm’s length. Further back, just 14 seconds covered the gap between 6th and 8th. Craig was driving well and enjoying the car on the stages and wishing for a better road position.

 

In SS14, Ott continued to make the most of his road position and increased his lead a further few seconds, his overall lead now over twenty seconds after Mads made a couple of mistakes. Seb also passed Elfyn for seventh place.

 

The shorter stage SS15 saw Ott still faster than Mads, whose tyres were not giving him the feel he wanted. Last years winner, Lappi set a great time, going fourth fastest and passing Teemu for fifth place.

 

After service, the same stage was run as SS16. Jari-Matti and Ott set the same time, whilst Mads was only fifth fastest, losing a little over three seconds to the charging Finn. He’d made some changes to the car during the service break, with the hope that these would give him the opportunity to push harder on the longer stages.

 

Lappi kept the stage wins in the Toyota team camp with a great time through SS17. Jari-Matti closed the gap to Mads by five seconds, just twelve seconds between them now. The reason for this was that he had two spare tyres in the car and was finding the car harder to drive on the limit with the extra weight.

 

Esapekka won the following stage too, SS18 and with that moved ahead of Hayden Paddon, deposing the Kiwi to fifth, whilst the gap between Mads and Jari-Matti came down another four seconds to eight between them now. The ruts in the stage were hindering Craig, plus a little change that he made to his car between the stages actually gave the car understeer, and not giving him confidence to push into the corners.

 

Lappi really was on a mission, winning SS19 and building a gap to Hayden too, with a nine second gap between them. The fight was still on between Mads in second and Jari-Matti who wanted that position, with the Toyota driver taking another three seconds out of the Norwegian and now just five seconds behind. They’d have to wait now till Sunday to continue their battle.

 

It had been a remarkably good day, with just one accident and no reliability issues either. We still had all of the top cars and drivers.

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:13:18.2
  2. Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 WRC) + 39.0
  3. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 44.4
  4. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 1:20.6
  5. Paddon / Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 1:29.6
  6. Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 1:45.1
  7. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 2:07.6
  8. Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 2:17.9
  9. Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) + 2:56.4
  10. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +3:34.5

 

 

Let’s hear again then from the drivers after day two. Top three first

 

Ott Tänak

“Overall, it has been another a good day. In the morning we were in a good rhythm and our road position was so much better than yesterday, so we managed to increase the gap even though I was not pushing as hard. This afternoon I was a lot more cautious because the roads were pretty rough and we already had a good gap. It was not so enjoyable to drive like this, but we still managed to increase our lead, so I cannot complain. Tomorrow we have some pretty smooth and fast stages and I’m looking forward to it.”

Mads Østberg

“Once again, we gave it everything today on these magnificent and very demanding roads. With the warm conditions, in the afternoon we had to contend with high tyre wear. We also had extra weight from the two spares we took for the second loop, but I think we managed really very well to hang onto second place! I’m pretty confident about tomorrow. We’ve already shown that we can hold off Latvala.”

Jari-Matti Latvala

“It has been really enjoyable today. There was still a little bit of speed missing during the morning loop but we made some changes to the car in mid-day service and I started to get a better feeling and I could start to push more. This meant that I was wearing my tyres a lot, but it was amazing how fast we were still able to go. Of course, we need to try and attack tomorrow and try to get second place. But of course, if you do risks they need to be controlled risks and that’s important.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Esapekka Lappi (4th)

“It has been a really strong day, particularly this afternoon. The morning was pretty enjoyable and we managed to gain three places already. Then during the afternoon, I pushed really hard, and didn’t save the tyres at all. This was a very risky game because we didn’t have much rubber left for the last stage, and yet we were still fastest! Now the target for tomorrow is to stay ahead of the guys behind us.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon (5th)

“It has been a marginally better day compared to Friday being second on the road. I feel we’ve had a decent day, considering, taking no risks. We know we have nothing to play for. It’s a difficult situation but we absolutely accept that. Now, we need to keep the car on the road and get to the end of the rally. Having led the championship for a few events, we knew there would come a time when our job would be trickier – and this rally is that moment! Finland is a particular event; we just have to enjoy it and accept our limitations.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 08, Rally Finland
26-29 July 2018
Hayden Paddon, Seb Marshall, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville (10th)

“It has been a marginally better day compared to Friday being second on the road. I feel we’ve had a decent day, considering, taking no risks. We know we have nothing to play for. It’s a difficult situation but we absolutely accept that. Now, we need to keep the car on the road and get to the end of the rally. Having led the championship for a few events, we knew there would come a time when our job would be trickier – and this rally is that moment! Finland is a particular event; we just have to enjoy it and accept our limitations.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (11th)

“It is always hard to be first on the road. Thierry had to manage yesterday and today it was my turn. We have had to use today’s stages effectively to get some mileage under our belts in an effort to improve the car. We are trying in all areas to find solutions but there’s not much we can do this weekend.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Teemu Suninen (6th) said:

“We made some good progress throughout the day and were able to make the car a bit faster during the midday service. In the second loop I had a much better feeling for the car and was able to set some much better times. We’re still missing a bit of pace compared to the guys at the front, but I was able to beat both of my team mates which means I can be happy with my day and my driving.”

Sébastien Ogier (7th) said:

“Performance wise, it’s not been the weekend we wanted – but we are ahead of Thierry [Neuville] which is always the main target. We’re still in a position to close the gap in the championship, and that is a positive.

“We all expected the Toyota’s to be the benchmark this weekend, but we were hoping to be closer too. We’re happy about the new package of parts, but with only one day of testing it was going to be a bit of a risk. We’ve used today as another test session, but we still have some work to do before we’re where we ultimately want to be.”

Elfyn Evans (8th) said:

“It’s not been a bad day and all three of us have been fighting quite closely together – although for sure we’d all like to have been fighting a bit higher up the leader board! We lost a bit of time this afternoon as I didn’t want to take the risks. We’ve got to play the team game and whatever happens we won’t be finishing ahead of Sébastien [Ogier] so it wasn’t worth taking the risks.”

Elfyn Evans and Dan Barritt, Photo credit M-Sport

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Craig Breen (9th)

“Although it’s always frustrating for us as drivers to not be able to do any more, we had a decent day given our road position, setting similar times to those around us in the running order.”

Khalid Al Qassimi (Rally2)

“It’s a shame to have made a mistake in a technical section on the loose gravel, but these things can happen at events that are as difficult as this one. I have high hopes that I can make up some ground again tomorrow.”

 

Sunday would see four stages, totalling 45km, and they were all a little over 11km each in length. There was also the spectacular Ruuhimäki, with its huge jumps, including at the finish!

 

The running order was – Mikkelsen, Neuville, Breen, Evans, Ogier, Suninen, Paddon, Lappi, Latvala, Ostberg, Tänak, Al Qassimi.

 

The first stage of the day SS20, saw the demise of Esapekka Lappi, who crashed out. This promoted everyone up a position and now Andreas was in the top ten. Meantime Mads won the stage with Jari-Matti just nine-tenths of a second behind and second fastest.

 

This battle continued in SS21 and it was Jari-Matti who won the stage from Mads and the gap was now around five seconds again. Ott remained in control and in the lead, which was now thirty-three seconds.

 

Jari-Matti was really on a mission now, winning SS21 from Mads again, the overall gap between them now, just two and a half seconds. This was the only battle now, with the gaps between the others too big to overcome.

 

The final stage then, SS22 and Ott won it, taking maximum points from the weekend! Mads prevailed over a charging Latvala, scoring a great second place for him and Torstein would be standing on his first WRC podium too! We saw team orders come into play too, with Teemu slipping behind M-Sport team leader Ogier, allowing the reigning champion to take fifth place.

 

Well, Ott and Toyota had done it. They’d followed up Lappi’s victory from last year, and Jari-Matti had got a great podium with third. All three on the podium, had driven really well all weekend. None had been gifted their finishing position. The championship rivals were well down the field, Seb getting some assistance from Teemu and Elfyn to get fifth, whilst Thierry crossed the line in ninth place and keeping a good gap, if slightly reduced to Ogier.

 

Here’s the thoughts then of the drivers, starting with the top three.

 

Ott Tanak

“It has been a perfect weekend. Everything worked as we wanted. On Friday we had a really big job with our road position, and after that we could just increase our advantage. We had the perfect preparation and full support from the team. If you work together as one then these kinds of results are achievable. To win in Finland is definitely special. It’s kind of a home rally for me and it’s the home rally for the team. To win in front of all this support is incredible.”

FIA World Rally Championship 2018 / Round 08 / Rally Finland 2018 / July 26-29, 2018 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Mads Østberg

“I’m really, really happy to fighting at the front again on these incredible stages! It’s the best thing I’ve ever done in my racing career. I’m also delighted for everyone at Citroën. The guys did a fantastic job to get us in this position and I’m proud to be a part of this team. I knew from our pre-event test that this C3 WRC was the best car that I’d ever had on this rally and I’m pleased that we managed to show it this weekend.”

Mads Østberg was overjoyed with second place! Photo credit, Citroen Racing

Jari-Matti Latvala

“I gave everything today to try and get second place. It was a great fight. It really helps with the confidence when you fight as hard as this and you can keep everything together and not make mistakes. To be back on the podium after quite a long time feels really good, and especially to do it here in Finland. Together with the victory for Ott, this was a really important result for the team.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon (4th)

“On the whole, I’m really happy with the weekend. We have been able to keep pace with some of the event favourites, maintaining a consistent performance. Naturally, we would have preferred to score a podium, of course, but we took a measured approach to secure important points for the manufacturers’ championship. The final morning was all about taking it easy to bring the car home with a comfortable gap behind us. I’ve really enjoyed the stages this weekend, the car has been a joy to drive and it has given me the confidence I need. We are back on the right track.”

Thierry Neuville (9th)

“Road position has really dictated a lot this weekend. Even without our mistake on Friday, when we misread a pace note, I don’t think we would have been any higher up the classification. We have had to accept our limits and focus on completing each stage with no further trouble. The main target was not losing too many points to Ogier, which we did to the best of our ability. We could only control what’s in our hands. We gave it everything we could in the Power Stage and it was good to take a couple of extra points. Overall, we have done our best, the team has done a good job and we can be proud of ourselves. We now look ahead to the team’s home event in Germany.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (10th)

“A difficult weekend for us. Any chance we might have had to feature further up the order was spoiled with our time loss on Friday morning’s loop. Losing three minutes due to a pace note error was just what we didn’t need, and it meant we were penalised as first on the road for Saturday and again this morning. We have had to avoid any unnecessary risks and use this event as a way of better understanding the car in these conditions but I’m sure we’ll be back on pace in Germany.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sébastien Ogier (5th)

“For sure it was a difficult weekend for us and we expected to be a lot more competitive. The Fiesta performed really well here last year and every driver was able to set fastest times. That wasn’t the case this year and it was a bit of a bad surprise.

“We tried all we could, but there wasn’t a lot more we could do. That’s how it is and we just have to try and analyse why we were not able to keep up the pace this weekend. The positive is that we scored more points than Thierry [Neuville] – and that is anyways always our main target.”

Seb Ogier, Julian Ingrassia reduced the points lead after finishing four places ahead of Thierry and Nicolas. Photo credit M-Sport Ford WRT

Teemu Suninen (6th)

“It’s been a tough weekend for us. We wanted to challenge for the podium, but we were missing some pace and couldn’t fight with the fastest drivers. I was able to beat my team mates and I am happy with that, but we let Seb past just before the last stage as he’s the one fighting for the championship.”

Elfyn Evans (7th)

“It’s not been a terrible weekend driving wise and I don’t think anyone can say that they don’t enjoy driving these stages, but for sure seventh place wasn’t the result we wanted.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Craig Breen (8th)

“It was a difficult weekend for us, with the puncture on Friday that proved very costly, leaving us to clean the road for two days. We nevertheless managed to show our pace whenever the conditions enabled us to do so. It was nice, especially, to finish with a good time on the Power Stage, which means we can now look ahead to Germany with optimism.”

Khalid Al Qassimi (37th)

“Although it was a difficult rally for us, with our mistake yesterday morning, I’m pleased we were able to re-join the action today and enjoy these incredible stages. Above all, I’m delighted for the team, whose hard work has been rewarded by a great result.”

 

FINAL STANDINGS

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2 :35:18.1
  2. Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 WRC) + 32.7
  3. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 35.5
  4. Paddon / Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 1:35.6
  5. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 2:15.0
  6. Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 2:19.2
  7. Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 2:29.5
  8. Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) + 3:08.4
  9. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +3:51.8
  10. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +8:37.4

 

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Thierry Neuville – 153 points
  2. Sébastien Ogier – 132 points
  3. Ott Tänak – 107 points
  4. Esapekka Lappi – 70 points
  5. Dani Sordo – 60 points
  6. Andreas Mikkelsen – 57 points
  7. Jari-Matti Latvala – 55 points
  8. Elfyn Evans – 52 points
  9. Mads Ostberg – 48 points
  10. Kris Meeke – 43 points
  11. Craig Breen – 39 points

 

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Hyundai WRT – 228 points
  2. M-Sport Ford WRT – 202 points
  3. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 201 points
  4. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT – 153 points

Well, the next round is Rallye Germany, 16th to the 19th of August, the scene of Thierry’s first win in 2014 for Hyundai. It really will be battle on for the championship between the Belgian and M-Sport’s champion Seb. Who else can challenge there? We know Elfyn goes well on tarmac, and Seb took a tarmac win this year too. Clearly, Citroen are making progress with their car again and you can’t discount Toyota, as they have last years winner, Ott as well!

 

It’ll be a fascinating event!

 

Till then, bye!

Rally Finland 2018 Preview

The summer break is over and there are six rounds left this year. Thierry Neuville leads the championship by twenty-seven points over the reigning champion, Sebastien Ogier. The Frenchman has also not finished this event for the last two years, but can be quick, having taken victory in 2013. His Belgian rival will want a decent haul of points from this event but opening the road will make it hard for him to fight for victory, particularly with the three Toyota’s having been honed to perfection on the very unique gravel roads that make this event so hard for non-Scandinavians to win.

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Finland (FIN) – WRC 26/07/2017 to 31/07/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Now, there’s a good chance that Toyota could sew up the whole podium, with former winners Jari-Matti and Esapekka Lappi in the team, plus a very quick Ott Tanak, but who could challenge this? Well, Elfyn Evans scored a brilliant second place last year, after being patient early on and getting the car in a good place, showed great pace on the Saturday and Sunday to score his best result ever on these roads.

 

Hoping to do well will be the Citroen squad. Two years ago, Kris Meeke took an incredible victory, the first for any British driver, beating Jari-Matti. Now Craig Breen and Mads Ostberg are the drivers the team are looking to, and both have scored podiums on this event. The key to their chances will be with whether they can take advantage of the road position on Friday, which if they can, will benefit them both on Saturday and Sunday.

 

Here’s the full schedule for the event. Sixty-five percent of the stages are new, and two that were run last year are being run in the opposite direction. Getting those pace notes correct during the reece which takes place today (Tuesday) and Wednesday will be so important.

 

RALLY FINLAND SCHEDULE (GMT+3)

 

THURSDAY 26 JULY

 

8.00am: Shakedown Vesala (4,26 km)

6.37pm: Start (Jyväskylä Paviljonki)

7.00pm: SS 1 – Harju 1 (2,31 km)

7.25pm: Parc fermé

 

FRIDAY 27 JULY

7.15am: Service A (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 15 min)

8.18am: SS 2 – Moksi 1 (20,04 km)

9.21am: SS 3 – Urria 1 (12,28 km)

10.13am: SS 4 – Ässämäki 1 (12,33 km)

11.36am: SS 5 – Äänekoski 1 (7,71 km)

12.51pm: Service B (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 30 min)

2.24pm: SS 6 – Oittila (19,34 km)

3.27pm: SS 7 – Moksi 2 (20,04 km)

4.30pm: SS 8 – Urria 2 (12,28 km)

5.22pm: SS 9 – Ässämäki 2 (12,33 km)

6.45pm: SS 10 – Äänekoski 2 (7,71 km)

8.00pm: SS 11 – Harju 2 (2,31 km)

8.30pm: Flexi service C (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 45 min)

 

SATURDAY 28 JULY

6.00am: Service D (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 15 min)

8.13am: SS 12 – Päijälä 1 (23,92 km)

9.29am: SS 13 – Pihlajakoski 1 (14,90 km)

10.38am: SS 14 – Kakaristo 1 (23,66 km)

12.13pm: SS 15 – Tuohikotanen 1 (8,95 km)

1.31pm: Service E (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 30 min)

2.55pm: SS 16 – Tuohikotanen 2 (8,95 km)

4.08pm: SS 17 – Kakaristo 2 (23,66 km)

5.36pm: SS 18 – Päijälä 2 (23,92 km)

6.54pm: SS 19 – Pihlajakoski 2 (14,90 km)

8.55pm: Flexi service F (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 45 min)

 

SUNDAY 29 JULY

7.30am: Service G (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 15 min)

8.38am: SS 20 – Laukaa 1 (11,74 km)

9.38am: SS 21 – Ruuhimäki 1 (11,12 km)

11.01am: SS 22 –  Laukaa 2 (11,74 km)

1.18pm: SS 23 – Ruuhimäki 2 Power Stage (11,12 km)

2.21pm: Service H (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 10 min)

4.00pm: Podium

 

So, lets hear from the drivers.

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“Sardinia was an incredible weekend, we couldn’t have hoped for a better result heading into the summer break! Now I’m ready to carry the momentum forward into the second half of the season. Finland is one of those rallies that everyone looks forward to. It’s going to be tricky this year coming into it after the extended break and jumping straight in the car. For the second event in a row, we’ll be first on the road and won’t have the advantage of the sweeping effect to begin with. It will be tough as the speed is very high – but I can’t wait for the challenge.”

2017 FIA World Rally Championship, Round 09, Rally Finland 27 – 30 July 2017, Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, Photographer: RaceEMotion, Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Andreas Mikkelsen

“Rally Finland is a really nice rally – it’s probably the event the drivers fear most, but also the one they really want to win! Because the grip is so low, you have to be very confident in the car to go fast on the stages. We were disappointed we couldn’t show our true potential in Sardinia, so hopefully we can find a good pace quickly and push hard to bring home a strong result.”

Hayden Paddon

“For me, Finland is the most incredible rally of the year. Not only are the roads, the jumps, and the pure speed impressive but also the atmosphere is electric. It really makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. I’m really looking forward to getting back into the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. We hope we can put the pieces together this year to bring home a strong result.”

 

M-Sport Ford

Sébastien Ogier

“It was nice to have a little break and spend some time relaxing with family and friends, but now the action is ready to resume and we’re fully focused on Rally Finland.

 

“For so many people this is the highlight of the year and it’s easy to see why. There is an atmosphere here that you don’t get anywhere else and the roads were tailor-made for rallying.

 

“This is the fastest event on the calendar and at those speeds its mere tenths of a second that you’re fighting for. The competition will be extremely strong, but the engineers and designers from M-Sport and Ford Performance have been working tirelessly to ensure we’re in the best possible position.

 

“We’ll have some aerodynamic updates on the rear of the car that we hope will give us that little bit extra in terms of performance, but we’ll still have to get absolutely everything right over the course of the weekend if we want to be in the fight for the top results.

These are the updates that will be run on Seb’s car.

“We know that the car was strong here last year and we had a good feeling on the test, but this is a rally that doesn’t forgive even the smallest of mistakes. We’ll certainly give it our best and the goal is always to come home with a strong haul of points.”

 

Elfyn Evans

“It feels like a long time since we were last in competition, but we’ve not been sitting idle! The team have been working extremely hard, we’ve had a good test, and I’ve also been doing a lot of PR work with Ford and Red Bull.

 

“I was involved in an advert for the new Fiesta ST – a great little road car – and also got behind the wheel of the Fiesta WRC to film some promotion with Red Bull ahead of Goodwood Festival of Speed. The festival itself was great, but now we’re ready to get back to business, and start the second half of the season with one of the highlights of the year – Rally Finland.

 

“I’d challenge anyone who said they didn’t enjoy driving Finland’s gravel roads in a world rally car! The high speed combined with the technical nature of the stages is incredible, and when you get into a good rhythm it’s a phenomenal feeling.

 

“We did well here last year and found a good feeling on the test; but the margins for error are so fine and the gaps so small that even the slightest of mistakes can be costly. The competition is going to be strong so we’ll need to be note perfect and deliver a very clean and precise drive. If we can do that, and get everything right, then I’d hope that we’ll be in with a good chance.”

Last year Elfyn drove his D-Mack shod Fiesta to second place. Photo credit, M-Sport

Teemu Suninen

“We had a really good test and are feeling ready and well prepared for the rally. We drove more than 200 kilometres on our test day – starting with the base set-up my team mates found earlier in the week. All three of us drive with a pretty equal set-up, so there were only some small confirmations to find and the car feels really fast.

 

“Having come so close last year, the top-three is my ultimate goal. It could be hard to achieve, but we will try our best. At the end it’s such a small margin that decides whether you finish third or sixth!

 

“Starting the first forest stage last year I was pretty nervous, but as soon as I saw the time and saw that my speed was enough I felt better straight away. This year the rally will be driven on similar roads and we have a very good feeling with the car in the high-speed sections. We’ll start the rally as we mean to continue – driving flat-out.”

 

 

Toyota Gazoo WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala

“I am really looking forward to Rally Finland. It is a good opportunity to start the second half of the season in a positive way. I have always felt really good support on my home event, and this is even more the case now that we are driving a car that has been built here. I could really feel last year that everybody was behind the team and willing us on. One of the big challenges this year will be the changes to the route. I have driven some of the new roads before, but it was a long time ago and there are large sections that even I don’t know. Therefore, I think it will actually create a more level playing field.”

Ott Tanak

“Rally Finland is always one of my favourite events. It is quite a specific rally: really high-speed but also quite technical with the jumps. You really need to have some respect for the roads there. This year there will be a lot of new roads that we have not seen before, which will add to the challenge. I think we have had some really good preparation. As well as our pre-event testing, I took part in Rally Estonia last weekend and won it, which was quite nice in front of so many fans. I am sure that a few of them will go to Rally Finland as well, and I hope we can give them a good result there too.”

Esapekka Lappi

“Rally Finland is always a special event and even more so after our victory last year. I am really looking forward to it. There is more pressure this year. From my side, I am expecting a good result and I think everyone else is too, so we really need to perform. I think it will be tougher to win it this time, though. The competition will be tougher, both from inside our team and from the other teams as well. The new stages will also create a big challenge. We know that our car will be competitive so the focus will be on making good pace-notes and finding a nice flow with the driving.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Finland (FIN) – WRC 26/07/2017 to 31/07/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Craig Breen

“Rally Estonia was excellent preparation for me. It gave us the opportunity to look at a few things and we also noted that with the new front geometry, the C3 WRC is even better balanced. I feel very confident coming into this round, especially as it’s one of the world championship events where I have the most experience. Experience is absolutely critical here, even though some of the stages have changed for this year’s rally.”

Craig Breen, Scott Martin will be hoping for a good result on these challenging roads. Photo credit Citroen Racing

Mads Østberg

“This really is one of my favourite events of the season. Although you need to make good pace notes in recce, afterwards it’s all-out attack! You don’t have to worry about tyre wear or the road surface breaking up. I have some very good memories from here, especially the podium secured when driving for Citroën in 2015, and I hope to take advantage of my two days of pre-event testing to get off to a good start and try to reproduce the same kind of performance.”

Khalid Al Qassimi

“This round is special for me because it’s where I made my debut in a works team in 2007. The feeling in the car during the stages, with the high speeds and never-ending crests, is also unique. It’s also what makes it such a difficult rally: you must be really comfortable and have good pace notes. As my last outing was in Argentina, I’ll need to get my bearings back first of all. I’ll then try to up the pace gradually whilst making sure I don’t make any mistakes.”

 

Well, can Hyundai score their first ever podium on these roads this year, or will we see a podium lockout for the Toyota team? What about Seb? Will he use the new aero on the back of his car to win? Can Citroen have a better event and challenge at the front?

 

Enjoy!

Rally Finland Review 2017- Esapekka Lappi takes his Maiden WRC Victory!

Here’s the story as to how Esapekka Lappi took his maiden WRC victory, on only his fourth top tier start!

 

We were treated to an amazing Finnish Rally this year. Just like last year, it will go down in history, but for very different reasons.  It all started as usual with shakedown on Thursday morning and once more it was very close.

 

SHAKEDOWN STANDINGS

Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC)          2:14.3

Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC)   2:14.4

Tänak / Jarveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC)      2:14.8

Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC)    2:14.9

Sordo / Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC)           2:15.2

Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC)          2:15.3

Østberg / Floene (Ford Fiesta WRC)     2:15.6

Paddon / Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2:15.6

Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC)       2:15.8

Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC)             2:16.0

 

Moving onto the first stage that evening and Ott won the stage from Thierry and Seb. The top ten looked like this.

 

1   Tanak 1m44.1s

2   Neuville   +1.1s

3   Ogier          1.5s

4   Breen       +1.6s

5   Latvala     +2.2s

6   Paddon    +2.5s

7   Hänninen +2.7s

8   Meeke     +3.0s

9   Evans        +3.1s

10 Sordo       +3.5s

13 Lappi        +5.7s

 

This was the full schedule that the drivers could look forward to on Saturday then and the day dawned bright and sunny, although there were reports that rain would be making an appearance later in the day.

 

FRIDAY JULY 28

6.05am: Service A (Jyväskylä – 15 mins)

7.12am: SS2 – Halinen 1 (7.65km)

7.45am: SS3 – Urria 1 (12.75km)

8.48am: SS4 – Jukojärvi 1 (21.31km)

10.06am: SS5 – Halinen 2 (7.65km)

10.38am: SS6 – Urria 2 (12.75km)

11.42am: SS7 – Jukojärvi 2 (21.31 km)

1.37pm: Service B (Jyväskylä – 30 mins)

3.00pm: SS8 – Äänekoski-Valtra 1 (7.39km)

4.13pm: SS9 – Laukaa 1 (11.76km)

5.11pm: SS10 – Lankamaa (21.68km)

6.09pm: SS11 – Äänekoski-Valtra 2 (7.39km)

7.22pm: SS12 – Laukaa 2 (11.76km)

8.30pm: SS13 – Harju 2 (2.31km)

9.00pm: Flexi Service C (Jyväskylä – 45 mins)

 

Just a short one to start the day, and Teemu would come out on top, showing all the drivers the way. Kris was just behind with Hayden just a few more tenths adrift. Overall, Ott still led with Thierry tumbling down the order to tenth. At the point Esapekka was 8.2 from first place.

 

SS2 – Halinen 1 (7.65km)

1 Suninen 3:39.7 (140kph)

2️ Meeke        +0.1

3 Paddon     +0.3

 

The news from Ogier at the end of stage 3 was not good. After a heavy landing, he started getting trouble from his throttle response, meaning that he’d lose just under 5 seconds and drop to sixth overall. The driver on the move was Teemu, who had slotted his Fiesta WRC into fifth overall. It was a Jari-Matti stage win, with Lappi admitting at the end of stage 2 that he’d been too cautious and deciding to let himself relax more. Top three quickest were all Finns. Incredibly, it wasn’t yet 9am in Finland at this point, but we’d had those stages completed already!

 

SS3 – Urria 1 (12.75km)

1 Latvala 5:56.4 (144kph)

2 Lappi         +0.1

3 Suninen  +0.4

 

Coming into stage four Seb was in sixth place, but after a heavy landing from a very big jump, much further on in the stage would see the car slide off the road and hit a tree, tearing the nearside rear wheel from the Fiesta. They were out for the day and would both visit hospital to be checked out. With the other M-Sport car of Ott, he’d get to the end of the stage with a puncture. He’d run wide and believes he’d caught a rock at the edge of the road. Sadly, Hayden would hit the same rock, but the damage was far worse and the number 4 Hyundai was out for the day. Through all this drama, came new flying Finn Esapekka. He won the stage and moved from tenth overall into second! All this despite stalling on the line at the start! Craig Breen also had a fright, after a heavy landing something not feeling right at the front and he was left hoping that there was nothing wrong with the suspension at the front.

 

SS4 – Jukojärvi 1 (21.31km)

1 Lappi 10:06.3 (126kph)

2 Latvala    +1.3

3 Ostberg +5.6

 

Stage five then and it was another to go Lappi’s way, with his teammate just a tenth off, keeping his overall lead at 5.2 seconds. Kris also gained a place, passing Juho for sixth. The other Citroen was going well, fourth quickest in the stage and keeping third overall.

 

SS5 – Halinen 2 (7.65km)

1 Lappi    3:36.5 (140kph)

2 Latvala    +0.1

3 Ostberg +0.5

 

Lappi was now really into the groove and completed stage six a full three seconds faster than Jari-Matti. Now the gap was just 2.2 seconds. In addition to that, Mads was closing on both Teemu and Craig, reducing the gap to them both by a second. He wanted third place.

 

SS6 – Urria 2 (12.75km)

1 Lappi   5:49.7 (144kph)

2 Tanak      +1.8

3 Ostberg +2.2

 

Stage seven, and it was another fastest time for Esapekka, three now in a row. The gap was now 1.6 seconds! Mads was also very quick moving from fifth into third overall with Craig now in fourth and Teemu in fifth. A service break followed this stage, allowing time for the drivers to work on their note for the afternoon loop.

 

SS7 – Jukojärvi 2 (21.31km)

1 Lappi   9:57.2 (140kph)

2 Latvala  +0.6

3 Ostberg +3.9

 

When they arrived for the start of stage eight at three in the afternoon, the rain had started. Also, with Seb out, Thierry would be first on the road. Mads didn’t remain in third for long, as Teemu was 1.3 faster setting the quickest time and did a Mads, jumping from fifth to third! Jari-Matti and Esapekka set the same time, meaning the gap between them remained 1.6 seconds.

 

SS8 – Äänekoski-Valtra 1 (7.39km)

1 Suninen 3:27.4 (140kph)

2 Hanninen +0.2

3 Latvala       +1.1

 

Esapekka reduced the gap once more by half a second to Jari-Matti. Just incredible driving from the young Finn. Craig was also on the move, passing Mads, who was now back down into fifth place.

 

SS9 – Laukaa 1 (11.76km)

1 Lappi   5:51.0 (132kph)

2 Latvala  +0.5

3 Suninen +2.4

 

Lappi took the next stage as well, and after pushing really hard, emerged in the lead! Once more, it was a Finn 1-2-3-4, with Juho fourth fastest, despite damaging his suspension on a stray rock in the road. With that time, Juho had moved past Craig into fourth. Mads had a nightmare dropping to seventh overall. Elfyn in his Fiesta made a very good move, going sixth fastest and moving up from eighth into sixth overall.

 

SS10 – Lankamaa (21.68km)

1 Lappi  10:21.4 (126kph)

2 Suninen +0.7

3 Latvala   +1.4

 

Esapekka increased his lead to 3.5 seconds over Jari-Matti in stage eleven, with Teemu and Ott just behind him. Jari-Matti could only manage eighth fastest. Thierry passed Kris for eighth overall, but really for him, it had been a very quiet day, barely troubling the drivers at the front.

 

SS11 – Äänekoski-Valtra 2 (7.39km)

1 Lappi   3:23.4 (140kph)

2 Suninen +0.4

3 Tanak     +0.7

 

At the front of the leaderboard, not much changed in stage twelve, but further back, Mads passed Elfyn for sixth place. Craig Breen was also 4 seconds faster than Juho, thus moving back ahead of the Toyota driver into fourth.

 

SS12 – Laukaa 2 (11.76km)

1 Lappi   5:44.9 (132kph)

2 Latvala    +1.1

3 Ostberg +2.9

 

The final stage of the day then and Thierry was fastest, with Tanak and Breen just a few tenths behind.

 

SS13 – Harju 2 (2.31km)

1 Neuville 1:46.9 (120kph)

2 Tanak        +0.1

3️ Breen       +0.3

 

Top ten at the end of Friday

1    Lappi    1:11:36.4

2    Latvala        +4.4

3    Suninen    +19.0

4️   Breen         +33.0

5    Hanninen +39.1

6    Ostberg    +45.0

7    Evans          +45.1

8    Neuville    +58.0

9️   Meeke     +1:07.6

10  Tanak     +1:50.2

 

Let’s hear from the drivers then.

 

Esapekka Lappi 1st said:

 

“I could never have imagined I would be leading Rally Finland. Just competing here in a World Rally Car has been a dream I have had since I was a small boy. That I am leading is hard to comprehend. But it’s been a really clean run so far with no mistakes and the car has been perfect. I’ve given it my all. I won’t force myself to fight against Jari-Matti if it means I will take too many risks. It feels to special to be leading this rally, the spectators are amazing, you just can’t feel that anywhere else.”

Esapekka Lappi, Toyota Yaris WRC, Rally Finland 2017

Jari-Matti Latvala 2nd said:

 

“Of course, Esapekka was always going to be fast, but I didn’t think he was going to be such a hurricane and that we would be the top two in this position after the first full day. The car is working well; I’m very happy with the balance and generally my driving has been good. When you have no other issues and a good car, you can just focus on the driving. There’s a little bit of a home advantage I think, as our car has been developed in Finland on roads like these. My confidence is high, but at the same time I’m trying to avoid taking any big risks.”

 

Teemu Suninen 3rd said:

 

“I’m very happy to be sitting in third place today. This is my home rally and only my second time in a world rally car so it is special for sure. The Finnish fans have been amazing as always and I want to thank all of them for their support.

 

“I think we have driven well today and shown good pace with no mistakes, but there are still things to improve. I need to be more consistent and more precise with the driving lines as that is what brings the good times here with these cars.

 

“I would say that my main strength is that I seem to be improving quite quickly. Hopefully we can continue that and someday be fighting for the victory myself. That is not the objective this weekend – I just want to focus on myself and forget about my Finnish friends ahead.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

 

Craig Breen 4th said:

 

“It’s been a good day, even if everything wasn’t perfect. This morning, after a bit of a ‘big’ landing over a jump, I had the feeling that there was something wrong with the handling and it was getting worse as we progressed. The team did their magic in service and the C3 WRC they handed me back was like new, but I had a few minor problems on the second loop. My pace notes weren’t always perfect and I was a little too careful in places. Every tenth you give away is hard to get back, but there’s still a long way to go – we haven’t even reached halfway as yet.”

 

Kris Meeke 9th said:

 

“Obviously, it wasn’t quite the day I was hoping for. I just couldn’t find the feeling that I had here last year when I won the rally. Despite our efforts and the work done in service, I couldn’t place the car like I wanted to and I was struggling to feel the grip. And clearly, it wasn’t ideal to contest the last few stages with the damaged steering.”

 

 

Khalid Al Qassimi 20th said:

 

“It was a tough day, during which I lost a lot of time. I was constantly looking for traction and struggled to keep the car on the right line. We made a lot of changes to the set-up – the differential, the throttle, the springs – but I think there is still a lot we can improve.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

 

Juho Hänninen 5th said:

 

“The general feeling here has been really good. The car has been working well. It is handling really well even on the high-speed sections and the jumps. This morning I wasn’t fully confident because the grip was changing, but things improved this afternoon and the times were good. Then I hit a rock and damaged the suspension. We were lucky to be able to finish the day without losing too much time. Tomorrow we will continue from where we left off before.”

 

Jipocar WRT

 

Mads Østberg 6th said:

 

“This was really frustrating, but something electronic in the rear was playing up and started locking up the rear wheels and that is something you really don`t want on these fast roads. I was back up to speed on the last stages of the day, and gained back one position, but it is nearly impossible to regain 25-30 seconds from the leaders in a rally like this where the margins are so tight. Still I aim to fight for a possible podium position. It’s a long way to go and my speed is definitely there.”

 

“We have done a good job during testing before the rally, and I really hope that we can continue without technical issues tomorrow. This is my favourite rally and we are not too far away from the last podium position. Torstein has done a tremendous job. I can tell you, it`s really not simple to step into a car like this in the fastest rally of the season. Both Torstein and I are determined to push to the maximum tomorrow and Sunday.”

 

D-Mack WRT

 

Elfyn Evans 7th said:

 

“With no pre-event test, we’ve had to discover the optimum set-up out on the stages. I was struggling with understeer throughout much of the morning and that hampered our confidence. On these roads – and at these speeds – that confidence makes all the difference.

 

“That said, we’re in seventh position with some very close gaps ahead. There’s still a long way to go so let’s see what tomorrow brings.”

 

M-Sport WRT

 

Ott Tänak 10th said:

 

“The disappointment came early in the day so after that we just had to keep going. We ran slightly wide at the start of SS4 and picked up a puncture. We lost more than one and a half minutes which obviously ended our hopes of challenging for the victory. At these speeds, the gaps are so close, and it is very difficult to make up the time.

 

“Since then, we’ve just been focused on driving cleanly. There is still motivation as it’s important for the team that we score as many points as possible. But you know the motivation is different when you are not fighting for the win. There is still a long way to go and a lot can still happen in this rally, so we just need to continue as we are and see what happens.”

 

Sébastien Ogier said:

 

“There was a big jump about two kilometres before we crashed. The landing damaged the rear suspension and towards the end of the stage I got a bit distracted by it. I was too late on the brakes and we had an impact sideways into a tree.

 

“It’s a real shame because our pace was really good and now we have missed an opportunity to score some good points for the championship. We had already lost some seconds with a throttle problem that was coming and going, but without that we were fighting right at the front.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

 

Thierry Neuville 8th said:

 

“It has not been an easy day. We have been struggling to find the required rhythm for these incredibly fast stages. Following Ogier’s issue in the morning, we knew we had inherited an opportunity to close the gap in the Championship even further, but so far, we haven’t made as much progress as we’d have liked. We have been first on the road for much of the day, which is of course part of the game, but we have been losing a bit to the other guys. The Toyota’s are, as expected, much faster, but my focus now is on moving up the classification to the top-five, where a solid points haul will aid our Championship ambitions. This rally is not over yet, even if we are now on the back foot after a difficult Friday. There is plenty to play for.”

 

Dani Sordo 11th said:

 

“There is not a lot to say, at least nothing really positive. We have not found the confidence in the car to tackle the rally with full attack. In Finland, more than anywhere else, you need to have full commitment inside the car; the smallest of lifts can make a huge difference on the timesheets. We have been trying all we can to get the right feeling but the others just have more. We will look at the information we have with the engineers this evening to see what we can do to improve for the rest of the rally.”

 

Hayden Paddon said:

 

“There is no margin for error in Finland, and so that has proven today. We started well and showed some encouraging pace on the opening stages. Then, in SS4, we ran slightly wide on the same corner several other drivers did. Unfortunately, a rock hit back and we broke our suspension. It wasn’t a huge amount of damage but enough to end our day prematurely. Still, the speed of the car is good and we were competitive; when you go just a tiny bit too fast here in Finland, there can be a heavy price to pay. We’ll be back under Rally 2 on Saturday.”

Marcus Gronholm, Toyota service park, Rally Finland 2017

 

SATURDAY JULY 29

7.20am: Service D (Jyväskylä – 15 mins)

8.58am: SS14 – Pihlajakoski 1 (14.90km)

10.06am: SS15 – Päijälä 1 (22.68km)

10.49am: SS16 – Ouninpohja 1 (24.38km)

12.02pm: SS17 – Saalahti 1 (4.21km)

1.27pm: Service E (Jyväskylä – 30 mins)

2.55pm: SS18 – Saalahti 2 (4.21km)

4.08pm: SS19 – Ouninpohja 2 (24.38km)

5.16pm: SS20 – Pihlajakoski 2 (14.90km)

6.24pm: SS21 – Päijälä 2 (22.68km)

8.39pm: Flexi Service F (Jyväskylä – 45 mins)

 

Saturday dawned cloudy, but it wasn’t raining. The roads in the first stage of the day were not as dry as you might expect. Latvala won the stage and his teammate, Esapekka was 3.8 seconds slower meaning that the gap was now six tenths of a second. At stage end, Jari-Matti said he pushed really hard, using the whole road. He had grass sticking out of his radiator- Evidence of how hard he’d pushed. Lappi said he wasn’t going to fight with Latvala. Elfyn was on the move as well, passing Mads for sixth place.

 

SS14 – Pihlajakoski 1 (14.90km)

1 Latvala   6:53.9

2 Hanninen  +2.7

3 Suninen    +3.2

 

Watching the cars through stage 15 was amazing. They were sideways out of the corners and flying from the top of the crests on the road. Jari-Matti pushed like crazy, going through corners in fifth gear! The outcome of all of this this was he took the lead emphatically! Now with Elfyn’s time being as good as it was and the spin that Craig suffered at a junction, the Welsh wizard climbed another spot into fifth!

 

SS15 – Päijälä 1 (22.68km)

1 Latvala 10:55.5 (124.6kph)

2 Evans          +3.7

3 Lappi          +5.4

 

Now it was time for the big one. It’s an unbelievable stage, Ouninpohja…… Run in the opposite direction compared to last year as well. A real rollercoaster, cornering at 170kph- That’s over 100mph! This stage does not have any straights, every part is either a left or a right-hand corner. They are blind as well. Only the ones that really know it, can push that hard. Jari-Matti was quicker again in this, increasing his lead to 7.3 seconds over Lappi. It was a Toyota 1-2-3 in this as well with Juho third through the stage and moving ahead of Teemu as well into third overall. Sadly, Mads went off and broke his suspension which dropped him down the field to eleventh place.

 

SS16 – Ouninpohja 1 (24.38km)

1 Latvala   10:56.9 (133.6kph)

2 Lappi             +2.5

3 Hanninen  +11.5

 

Stage seventeen saw Jari-Matti increase his lead to 7.8 seconds, through the shorter 4km stage, which was run again after afternoon service. He won it in the afternoon as well.

 

SS17 – Saalahti 1 (4.21km)

1 Latvala 1:58.4 (128kph)

2 Lappi       +0.5

3 Tanak      +0.5

 

At the end of stage 18, Jari-Matti had a 8.5 lead over Lappi with Juho just ahead of Teemu.

 

SS18 – Saalahti 2 (4.21km)

1 Latvala 1:56.4 (130.2kph)

2 Lappi        +0.7

3 Suninen  +1.0

 

It was time to run the big one again and the speeds would be even higher this time. Mads jumped over fifty metres! There would be drama in the Toyota of Jari-Matti though. Mid-way through the stage the car just stopped and there was nothing the Finn could do about it. He thumped the steering wheel in frustration. The dream was over again for another year. Esapekka passed the stricken Yaris WRC in the stage. When he reached stage end he was told he led again, but he sounded glum. He was disappointed he’d taken the lead in this way. Thierry finally found some pace and with everything, moved up into sixth position.

 

SS19 – Ouninpohja 2 (24.38km)

1 Lappi    10:49.8 (135.1kph)

2 Hanninen  +2.8

3 Neuville    +5.5

 

Final stage of the day, and there would be drama for Kris. A rock would puncture his tyre and the resulting damage would rip the front near-side of the car apart. Teemu won the stage, with Elfyn and Mads, giving us a Fiesta 1-2-3! With that time, it meant that Teemu was now in second overall! Just astonishing in only his second outing in a WRC car.

 

SS20 – Pihlajakoski 2 (14.90km)

1 Suninen 6:49.0 (131.1kph)

2 Evans          +1.3

3 Ostberg    +1.8

 

Top ten overall

 

1   Lappi     2:02:13.2

2   Suninen     +54.4

3   Hanninen  +55.4

4   Evans       +1:01.9

5️  Breen        +1:17.4

6   Neuville   +1:34.1

7️  Meeke     +2:09.6

8   Tanak       +2:14.1

9   Sordo     +3:48.0

10 Ostberg +4:21.4

 

 

So, here’s the views of all the drivers.

 

Esapekka Lappi 1st said:

 

“It is amazing to be leading at this moment, although I have mixed emotions as I am disappointed for Jari-Matti. He was driving really well. I could not keep up with him without taking big risks, which I did not want to do. When I passed him I slowed down a little bit. I am used to leading with a gap as it happened last year and I know how to manage a lead. I must now concentrate and keep my mind clear. I will sleep well tonight.”

 

Teemu Suninen 2nd said:

 

“I’m feeling good today. When I had a good feeling on the stages the times have been really good, but it was a disappointment to have lost so much time on Ouninpohja this morning. We lost about 20 seconds at a chicane and that has a big effect now as the fight is really tight.

 

“Tomorrow, I think all of us will have to keep the same pace as today if not more. I’ll continue to focus on my own driving – on keeping a good rhythm and on not making any mistakes.”

 

Juho Hänninen 3rd said:

 

“This morning was very good. It was a clear run. The afternoon was not so easy. I was a little bit too careful in the last stage, which was very narrow at the end, and I could have been a bit more brave. We are still in a good position, but it is very close with the cars around us. I will try to get second place, that’s the goal for tomorrow.”

 

D-Mack WRT

 

Elfyn Evans 4th said:

 

“It will be an exciting day tomorrow. It’s fair to say that we were struggling yesterday, but it’s been a pretty positive day for us today.

 

“Everything seems to have come together and we’ve been happy with our performance on most of the stages.

 

“The conditions suited us a bit better today and we also found a better balance with the car which helped regain some of the confidence we had been lacking previously.

 

“It’s game on for tomorrow so let’s see what we can do.”

Elfyn Evans, Dan Barritt, D-Mack Fiesta WRC, Rally Finland 2017

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

 

Craig Breen 5th said:

 

“It’s been something of an up and down day, a bit like the roads here in Finland! I thought I could have been a bit faster in places, but I had a bit of trouble with the set-up we chose for the morning. It was better this afternoon, when there was more grip, but it still wasn’t perfect. I feel like we’re further away from the podium, but we’re still only thirty seconds off second place. If luck is on our side tomorrow, we might be able to move up the standings.”

 

Kris Meeke 8th said:

 

“Every year it’s the same. Ouninpohja is simply one of the best rally stages, an incredible piece of road. The level of grip was good this afternoon and I was able to push because I had a good feeling in the car. We changed quite a few things on the set-up during the mid-leg service and we got some interesting information for the future, so that was pretty positive. On the final stage, we picked up a puncture after hitting a stone. I wanted to keep pushing but the tyre exploded, causing some fairly serious-looking damage. But it wasn’t all that serious.”

 

Khalid Al Qassimi 17th said:

 

“It was another tough day. We worked constantly with the engineers, and yet the car remains very sensitive and tricky to drive on these ultra-fast roads. I had a few moments, especially on the final stage, when we went wide into a ditch and hit some rocks. Fortunately, the damage wasn’t too substantial and we are still in the race.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

 

Thierry Neuville 6th said:

 

“Another dissatisfying day for us, but we have gained a few places since yesterday thanks, unfortunately, to others experiencing trouble. We need to pick up as many points as we can, to try and close the gap to Sébastien. The car performed better in the afternoon loop, although it wasn’t without its difficulties. In the final stage, I hit a rock in the narrow section and bent the steering. I had to back off a bit. We know that we need to rely on some luck to make up any more positions on the final day, but we’ll see what happens.”

 

Dani Sordo 9th said:

 

“These stages are fantastic and it is a privilege to drive them. The two runs through Ouninpohja were incredible, like a circuit inside the forest. Overall, we had a better afternoon loop when the stages had more grip, but it is just difficult to find motivation and enjoyment when the times are not there. We have not been in a position to fight for anything meaningful so we are just focused on getting through each stage – it is not an ideal way to approach a rally but we can do no more.”

 

Hayden Paddon (Ret) said:

 

“There was nothing we could do about our retirement today. We were going through a blind left, into a right, when all of a sudden, I caught sight of a big football-sized rock in the road. In the split-second it took to see it, and I knew it would do damage. We could not avoid it and it broke the suspension arm. The real shame is the lack of mileage from this rally. We will be back out on Sunday to try and end this weekend on a high note.”

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 09, Rally Finland
27 – 30 July 2017
Hayden Paddon, Seb Marshall, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Sarah Vessely
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

M-Sport WRT

Ott Tänak 7th said:

 

“The Finns have been quite dominant this weekend, but I think it would have been possible to be in that fight. After yesterday’s time loss, there was no opportunity to see if we could do that and it’s difficult to find the same confidence when you are not fighting for the win.

 

“We’ve just been trying to improve the feeling without taking too many risks. That said, it’s still been a decent day and you can’t help but enjoy yourself on these Finnish roads.”

 

Jipocar WRT

Speaking about the spin on the first run through Ouninpohja-

Mads Østberg 10th said:

 

“It was nothing very dramatic, but we hit some rocks, was thrown off the road and damaged the suspension and brakes rear left on the car. We had to stop and check the damages and change a wheel, and continued on the stage without much effect from the brakes. That resulted in further time loss, and it really is quite scary to drive such a fast stage without brakes”.

 

“Yesterday I played with car, today I have had to fight with it. We have worked all day to improve the set-up, and it has been a little better, but not the same as Friday”.

 

The car still isn`t balanced as I would like, and we need a proper check-up during end of day service. We aim to go for some good stage times tomorrow and possibly some points on the “power stage”.

 

 

 

8.00am: Service G (Jyväskylä – 15 mins)

9.25am: SS21 – Lempää 1 (6.80km)

10.08am: SS22 – Oittila 1 (10.12km)

11.47am: SS23 – Lempää 2 (6.80km)

1.18pm: SS24 – Oittila 2 Power Stage (10.12km)

2.21pm: Service H (Jyväskylä – 10 mins)

3.00pm: Podium

 

Sunday morning, and Esapekka had a very healthy lead of nearly 50 seconds. It was bright and sunny. Who would complete the podium? We had Teemu, Juho and Elfyn covered by just seven seconds.

Esapekka Lappi, Toyota Yaris WRC, Rally Finland 2017

Stage 21 went to fourth placed Elfyn and with that, the gap came down. Further back Citroen pairing Khalid Al Qassimi and Kris Meeke both had damage, so they both returned to the service park.

 

SS21 – Päijälä 2 (22.68km)

1 Evans 10:42.3 (127.1kph)

2 Tanak +     0.6

3 Suninen  +1.9

 

With the problem fixed on Jari-Matti’s Toyota, he returned to the top of the time sheets with a quickest time through stage 22. Incredibly, with Juho going through the stage faster than Teemu, they were both now on the same overall time, 49.4 seconds down from Lappi. Elfyn was also continuing his hunt for a podium finish.

 

SS22 – Lempää 1 (6.80km)

1 Latvala 3:08.4 (129.9kph)

2 Hanninen  +1.1

3 Evans         +1.8

 

Latvala was back in the groove and took the next stage, thus setting him up well for later, as this stage would be run again as the power-stage. Thierry didn’t do very well at all, after running wide twice and losing several seconds as a result. Evans was the one on the move however, passing Juho on the leaderboard and into third place. Juho had made a mistake, hitting something at the side of the road, losing time as a consequence.

 

SS23 – Oittila 1 (10.12km)

1 Latvala 4:52.1 (124.7kph)

2 Suninen  +3.2

3 Evans       +3.7

 

A combination of things happened in this stage that meant Juho would jump back into second overall. Firstly, he would set the same time as Jari-Matti and despite Elfyn being just 1.1 seconds slower than that, it was enough to put the Welsh wizard behind the Finn. The other thing was that Teemu dropped out of that battle completely after he spun in a very quick right-hander, which turned the car around and pulled the bumper into the hedge. Incredibly, Esapekka ran wide as well, damaging his rear wheel. Just shows how on the limit that they drive these cars.

 

SS24 – Lempää 2 (6.80km)

1 Hanninen 3:08.3 (130kph)

2 Latvala         +0.0

3 Tanak           +0.5

 

It was the last stage! The power-stage gives points for the top five best times. Jari-Matti wanted this one, and he had reason to be optimistic after being fastest earlier. However, his time would be beaten and he would ultimately be fourth quickest. Ott would win the stage and take max points from it. What would happen between Evans and Juho? Incredibly, with Juho only fifth fastest, 2.7 seconds slower, Elfyn was second fastest through the stage and it was enough to put him into second overall, just three tenths of a second faster after 25 stages! Just amazing.

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Finland (FIN) – WRC 26/07/2017 to 31/07/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Esapekka had won the rally and what a result for him in only his fourth event at this level.

 

SS25 – Oittila 2 (Power Stage) (10.12km)

1 Tanak   4:48.6 (126.2kph)

2 Evans        +1.5

3 Neuville  +2.0

 

1  Lappi    2:29:26.9

2  Evans          +36.0

3  Hanninen  +36.3

4  Suninen   +1:01.5

5️  Breen       +1:22.6

6  Neuville   +1:33.1

7  Tanak       +1:53.6

8️   Meeke    +3:12.6

9   Sordo      +4:11.5

10 Ostberg +4:21.2

 

Let’s hear from the drivers at the end of this amazing historic event.

Rally Finland Podium 2017

Esapekka Lappi 1st said:

 

“I’m not normally an emotional person but this is amazing. What a rally. I could never have imagined that we could get a result like this, so it’s a very big surprise. I have to say a big thank you to the team because they have built such a great car in a very short period.”

 

Elfyn Evans 2nd said:

 

“We’re really chuffed to come away from Rally Finland with second place – especially as that wasn’t looking likely on Friday evening. We kept at it, kept pushing and managed to claw our way back up the leader board. It’s a really positive way to finish the weekend.

 

“Friday was a very difficult day for us. We started without a test and were really struggling with the balance of the car throughout that opening day. We made some changes which helped quite a lot and the longer stages and drier conditions helped too. We started making our way up the order and it all went from there.

 

“Going into this morning, it was a very difficult situation to be in. There was an element of wanting to push for the best result, but at the same time it was really important to secure good points for the team. It wasn’t an all-out attack, but it all worked out in the end.

 

“It’s not the win, but it’s still a strong weekend and we can be pleased with the job we have done this weekend.”

 

Juho Hänninen 3rd said:

 

“It’s been an amazing weekend and I’m very happy with this result. Of course, I tried to get second, but we made a few mistakes. I’m still very happy to be on the podium for the first time in my career. Thank you to the team and this fantastic car that made it possible.”

 

M-Sport WRT

 

Teemu Suninen 4th said:

 

“Of course, it’s disappointing to have lost out on a podium in the final stages, but we had to try. This is our last planned rally in a world rally car, so I had to try. Unfortunately, I just ran a little bit wide and had a high-speed spin which dropped us out of that battle.

 

“I’m disappointed right now, but in the morning, I think I will feel better – knowing that I was fighting for a podium on only my second time in this car.

 

“We had really good pace all weekend – honestly more than we had expected before the rally – and I am happy with that. A big thanks also to all of the fans and the team for their support which has been pushing me to do my best.”

 

Ott Tänak 7th said:

 

“The Finns have been quite dominant this weekend but I think we had the pace to be in the fight. Unfortunately, we will never know what would have been possible – our disappointment coming quite early in the rally.

 

“To score the top times here in Finland you need to be fully confident, and it’s hard to find that when you’re not fighting for the best positions. But it’s still been a fairly decent weekend. Driving in Finland is always a lot of fun and we showed our speed with the fastest time through the Power Stage.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

 

Craig Breen 5th said:

 

“It wasn’t our best day in terms of pure performance. I knew that I couldn’t make up the ground on the leaders in normal racing conditions so I just focused on containing Thierry Neuville. For sure, it’s a good run of fifth places but I’d like to get back onto the podium before the end of the season!”

Craig Breen, Scott Martin, Rally Finland 2017, Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT.

Kris Meeke 8th said:

 

“Although there weren’t many miles to cover, it was still a proper leg with some typically fast Finnish stages. As I had nothing to gain by taking risks and was low on confidence, I played it safely to bring the car home.”

 

Khalid Al Qassimi 16th said:

 

“Like yesterday, I was first on the road and that made my job a little more difficult. The roads were very slippery this morning and it wasn’t easy to read the level of grip. So I drove without any real feeling, but there wasn’t much else I could do.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

 

Thierry Neuville 6th said:

 

“We set out to score more than Ogier this weekend, and we were able to achieve that. We had a very difficult weekend so to salvage some points is crucial. The Power Stage was a key moment, as we scored three vital extra points to move to the top of the Championship. This levels the playing field with four events left of the season, so it has been an important result. We know everyone is pushing hard to keep us in contention, so we have to put this complicated rally behind us and look forward to Germany, the team’s home event, where we know from the past that we can perform well.”

 

Dani Sordo 9th said:

 

“I am relieved that this rally is over. I have never had the right feeling all weekend, and on these fast roads you need to be fully committed to perform at the highest level. It has been complicated, not only for me but also for the team, so we have to put this behind us and look forward to the next event. We cannot let this weekend affect us; we need to stay concentrated and push flat out for victory in Germany!”

 

Hayden Paddon said: “It has been one of those weekends for us. After our retirements on Friday and Saturday, we wanted to approach these final stages in a positive manner and to get some time behind the wheel. This rally has perfectly illustrated our season, where anything that can go wrong does go wrong. The Power Stage was another example, when the car unexpectedly went straight on at a third gear corner. Still, we got to the end of the rally and I am sure, one day in the future, we will look back and laugh at our bad luck this year. I am sure we could have fought for the podium this weekend, and that is the positive that we will take away.”

 

Jipocar WRT

 

Mads Østberg and co-driver Torstein finished Rally Finland in 10th place, after a challenging but also positive weekend on the superfast Finnish roads.

 

Mads 10th said:

 

“I`m not thinking so much on the end result, because this has actually been my best rally this season. Except for some bad luck with the off-road excursion yesterday, we have been genuinely competitive this weekend with many top-three stage times. Torstein has also done a fantastic job jumping into the co-drivers seat on relatively short notice. We will just have to work with the positive experiences from this rally, and therefore I am really positive before the rest of the season”.

 

Thinking of the coming weeks ahead, Mads continued,

 

“It’s really tough with two WRC-rallies and one ERC-event in only 17 days. But also, very interesting and challenging with the chance to evaluate three different codrivers. I am looking for a permanent codriver to partner me further on and Torstein, Patrick and Emil are all possible candidates for this job”.

 

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Finland (FIN) – WRC 26/07/2017 to 31/07/2017 – PHOTO : @World

 

Well, the championship has just got very interesting indeed. With Seb not scoring any points at all and Thierry finishing in sixth place and scoring enough points to bring him level with Seb at the top. We have a four-event battle to look forward to for this year’s championship. It starts in two weeks in Rally Germany!

 

 

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 09, Rally Finland
27 – 30 July 2017
Thierry Neuville
Photographer: Sarah Vessely
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

 

2017 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings

After round 9

 

1              T. Neuville             160

2              S. Ogier                 160

3              O. Tanak                119

4              J.M Latvala          114

5              D. Sordo                 84

6              E. Evans                  79

7              C. Breen                 53

8              H. Paddon             51

9              J. Hänninen          46

10           E. Lappi                  45

 

2017 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings

After round 9

 

1              M-Sport World Rally Team                                              285

2              Hyundai Motorsport                                                           251

3              Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team                  193

4              Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team            135

 

Warren Nel

3rd August 2017

Rally Finland Preview 2017. The Gravel Grand Prix!

It’s time for the big one! This is it. The WRC is heading for the iconic roads in Finland. Formerly known as the 1000 Lakes Rally, this very fast event includes the super-fast Ouninpohja, a stage that you must have absolute faith in the car and the pace notes that will guide you through its jumps and, run twice on Saturday, it features jumps and blind crests over its 24.38km’s! One key difference this year is that this stage will be run in the opposite direction compared to last year.

 

Last year saw Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle win during their part time season with Citroen. This year has certainly not been what they wanted, with a single victory in Mexico, and various other problems causing retirements, including mechanical problems and mistakes from Kris. He sat out the last round in Poland, but is back for this one.

 

In the Jipocar squad, Mads and Ola have parted and so for this round, he’ll have a new co-driver called Torstein Eriksen alongside him.

 

Here are the details of the stages.

 

RALLY FINLAND SCHEDULE(GMT+3)

 

THURSDAY JULY 27

8.00am: Shakedown – Ruuhimäki (4.62km)

6.42pm: Start (Jyväskylä)

7.00pm: SS1 – Harju 1 (2.31km)

7.25pm: Parc ferme (Jyväskylä)

 

FRIDAY JULY 28

6.05am: Service A (Jyväskylä – 15 mins)

7.12am: SS2 – Halinen 1 (7.65km)

7.45am: SS3 – Urria 1 (12.75km)

8.48am: SS4 – Jukojärvi 1 (21.31km)

10.06am: SS5 – Halinen 2 (7.65km)

10.38am: SS6 – Urria 2 (12.75km)

11.42am: SS7 – Jukojärvi 2 (21.31 km)

1.37pm: Service B (Jyväskylä – 30 mins)

3.00pm: SS8 – Äänekoski-Valtra 1 (7.39km)

4.13pm: SS9 – Laukaa 1 (11.76km)

5.11pm: SS10 – Lankamaa (21.68km)

6.09pm: SS11 – Äänekoski-Valtra 2 (7.39km)

7.22pm: SS12 – Laukaa 2 (11.76km)

8.30pm: SS13 – Harju 2 (2.31km)

9.00pm: Flexi Service C (Jyväskylä – 45 mins)

 

SATURDAY JULY 29

7.20am: Service D (Jyväskylä – 15 mins)

8.58am: SS14 – Pihlajakoski 1 (14.90km)

10.06am: SS15 – Päijälä 1 (22.68km)

10.49am: SS16 – Ouninpohja 1 (24.38km)

12.02pm: SS17 – Saalahti 1 (4.21km)

1.27pm: Service E (Jyväskylä – 30 mins)

2.55pm: SS18 – Saalahti 2 (4.21km)

4.08pm: SS19 – Ouninpohja 2 (24.38km)

5.16pm: SS20 – Pihlajakoski 2 (14.90km)

6.24pm: SS21 – Päijälä 2 (22.68km)

8.39pm: Flexi Service F (Jyväskylä – 45 mins)

 

SUNDAY 30 JULY

8.00am: Service G (Jyväskylä – 15 mins)

9.25am: SS21 – Lempää 1 (6.80km)

10.08am: SS22 – Oittila 1 (10.12km)

11.47am: SS23 – Lempää 2 (6.80km)

1.18pm: SS24 – Oittila 2 Power Stage (10.12km)

2.21pm: Service H (Jyväskylä – 10 mins)

3.00pm: Podium

All of this adds up to 314.20 km’s of action. Let’s hear then from the drivers.

 

M-Sport WRT

 

Sébastien Ogier said:

 

“Rally Finland is most definitely a highlight in the season. The Finns certainly know how to deliver a good rally, and these gravel roads are tailor-made for rallying.

 

“It’s fast – really fast – and the big jumps and high grip levels offer an incredible sense of speed that every driver looks forward to. At that pace, you’re fighting for tenths of a second and I’m expecting a very close battle.

 

“The weather looks as though it could be a little unsettled, so we’ll have to wait and see how that plays out, but we want to be in the fight at the top. That demands a near-perfect performance throughout the weekend with no mistakes and a set-up that delivers confidence in the driving.

 

“We had a two-day test this week and, although it was cut short and I’m sorry for my teammates who were unable to continue, the car felt fantastic. I’m really looking forward to the rally now – where we hope to secure a good result for our championship defence.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Poland (POL) – WRC 29/06/2017 to 02/07/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Ott Tänak said:

 

“Poland didn’t end the way we wanted it to, but we know that we have the pace and we’ll be looking to take that forward to Finland – another high-speed rally and another of my favourite events.

 

“I think every driver looks forward to Rally Finland. When you’re on it and hook up the perfect stage there really is no better feeling – and we’ll be hoping for plenty of that next week.

 

“The roads are really fast with blind corners after big jumps and a surprising amount of grip. You need to be brave and confident in yourself. If you don’t feel completely comfortable it’s almost impossible to push to the maximum and you’ll lose time – something that’s not easily gained at these speeds.

 

“We completed a two-day test in Finland this week – working to find the best set-up – and I’m confident that we’ll be able to fight at the head of the field again. I’m looking forward to it and I’m excited to see what we can do.”

 

Teemu Suninen said:

 

“It’s always nice to start to my home rally, and it will be especially nice this year as we’re behind the wheel of a world rally car.

 

“We were brought up on these roads, which are incredibly fast, but many people forget that I actually don’t have a lot of experience at Rally Finland. I’ve driven the stages of Rally Poland quite a few times with a four-wheel drive car, but the Finnish stages not so much – and I’ve never driven Ouninpohja in this direction!

 

“Of course, I’m excited to be competing on home soil, but the goals remain the same as they would on any other rally and we will need to drive well to secure the result we want.

 

“In Poland, we aimed to be in the top six and finished sixth. Losing a position on the final stage felt like a small disappointment, but that does not change my approach for Rally Finland. We’ll need to be on the top of our game from the start if we want to achieve our goals, and that is certainly the aim.”

 

D-Mack WRT

 

Elfyn Evans said:

 

“Rally Finland is one of the most enjoyable events of the year and I think everyone is looking forward to this year’s encounter. With these new cars, the spectacle will be something very special and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do.

 

“We’re keen to get back to the sharp end and at the moment the weather looks as though it could be a little unsettled so we’ll have to wait and see how that works for us – hopefully the conditions won’t be as challenging as they were in Poland.

 

“The stages are so fast and you need to have precise Pacenotes and the confidence to drive to the maximum. The high speed combined with the technical nature of the stages is incredible and when you get into a good rhythm it’s a phenomenal feeling.

 

“It’s not all fun and games though as the margins for error are so fine. That said, we’ve shown some pretty good speed here in the past and, if everything works in our favour, anything is possible.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

 

Thierry Neuville said:

 

“We were delighted with both our own and the team’s performance in Poland. We hope that it can be a real catalyst for further success moving towards the end of the season. The car is looking very strong and with two wins on gravel already this season it has shown how competitive we can be. We are confident that we can continue to challenge for the Championship. We know that Finland can be a tricky event and that the margin of error is minimal due to the high speeds and complexities of the track, but we are confident of putting on a good show.”

2016 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 08, Rally Finland 2016 / July 28-31, 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon said:

 

“Finland is definitely a rally that I enjoy, it’s very fast and it has got a lot of history. We know how tricky an event it can be, given the speeds that we reach and some of the difficult jumps and corners that come up during the event, but I’ve done it eight times now, so it’s good to have that experience. It’s a rally where I feel at home, so we want to put on a really good show for everyone watching. That Polish podium has given us a big confidence boost, and we can’t wait to get back out on the stages and look for a similar result.”

 

Dani Sordo said:

 

“Having come close to a podium in Poland, we are hopeful that in Finland we can claim a top-three finish. It has been a mixed season for us so far with some positive results and a few challenging moments. We have had a few issues in some events that have hindered our progress but we are as determined as ever. We want to continue the second half of the season on a positive note. Finland is a tough event, but we will do all we can to get the most out of the car and ourselves to score more points for the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ Championship.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala said:

 

“Along with Monte-Carlo, Finland is the rally that everyone wants to win; especially if you are Finnish. There’s pressure to do well, but it’s a positive pressure. No doubt about my target: victory. I’m feeling confident, but I don’t think there’s such a thing as a big home advantage for Finnish drivers anymore. Now that so many of the stages are used every year, the other drivers have got a lot of experience as well. I’m expecting a big fight.”

Juho Hänninen said:

 

“Finland is the rally I have done more than any other, so I’m feeling quite confident. I don’t want to set any specific targets but I’m definitely going to push hard from the start and see how high we can finish. There’s no choice in Finland: the speeds are so fast that you don’t have time to build up to speed; you have to be awake from the first corner. The work we did on the test was mainly on the suspension and now it feels really good. I also had some rain at the start of my test but this is positive as it means that the roads should be really compact and in the right condition for the rally.”

 

Esapekka Lappi said:

 

“It’s going to be really exciting to take part in my home event for the first time with a World Rally Car. I think there’s a chance that if we have a perfect rally we could be on the podium, but everything would have to go without a hitch because the gaps in Finland are normally so small. Our car should be very well suited to the roads in Finland: I think the aerodynamics and engine are really our strong points. This rally is a big job for my co-driver Janne too as he’ll be calling out the pace notes at speeds that are much faster than we have ever experienced in Finland before.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT, World Rally Championship.

Kris Meeke said:

 

“Rally Finland has always been one of my favourite events, but it became even more special after my win here last year. You have some of the best gravel roads in the world here and it can be an awful lot of fun drive on them. I’m pleased to be back behind the wheel of the C3 WRC, although I’m expecting it to be a tough rally. Our test sessions were mostly held in the rain and with cool temperatures. It looks likely that we’ll have similar conditions for the rally, so my being tenth in the running order won’t be an advantage if the roads are covered in mud! Whatever happens, we’ll do our very best to secure a good result for the team.”

 

Craig Breen said:

 

“This rally is one of the ones where I feel most comfortable. I have very fond memories of last year’s rally, where I secured my first World Championship podium. After a frustrating Rally Poland, I can’t wait to get started here and will be aiming for a good result. After four fifth-place finishes, obviously, I’d like to go one or more better. We’ll just have to wait and see whether or not the racing conditions enable us to fight at the front. I’m also pleased to have the latest upgrades on the Citroën C3 WRC.”

 

Kalid Al Qassimi said:

 

“Finland is an extremely fast rally and the jumps can be difficult to negotiate. My aim will be to maintain a good pace in the C3 WRC. We’ll need to work well during recce, in order to have precise pace notes. My day of testing gave me the chance to re-familiarise myself with the quick roads here, and discover the latest upgrades made to the car. I would like to wish Kris and Craig the best of luck and hope that they can once again secure the best result possible.”

 

Jipocar WRT

 

Mads Østberg said:

 

“I am looking for a new permanent codriver after we agreed with Ola to go separate ways earlier this summer. Torstein has been a part of our team organisation since 2012, he knows my pacenote system and he has been with me in the car during testing. He is a very competent codriver, but the challenge for him is to adjust from the speed of the R5-cars he is used to the full 2017 spec WRC-Fiesta. I`m sure he will manage well”.

 

“Finland is really something else, and you need to be extremely mentally tough with yourself to cope with the highspeed nature of the event. You sometimes need to go beyond what your brain tells you is the “sensible” approach. But if you start braking that little split-second early, you immediately will lose a lot of time. The fight is always very close in Finland, a few seconds in either way can mean the difference between a top or a mid-field position. I have been on the podium in this rally before, and if things go according to plan I will aim to fight for many points this time”

 

“First and foremost, we were happy with finishing Poland relatively problem-free, and we had good speed on the fastest bits. Finland is however different with all the jumps. On some stages, you feel you are in the air most of the time. Of course, it isn`t so, but it makes for a really special challenge”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Poland (POL) – WRC 29/06/2017 to 02/07/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Just a few days to go then and what an amazing event this will be. There’s some uncertainty about the weather, with some reports of possible rain throughout the three days. This would make running at the front as Seb, Thierry and Jari-Matti less of a disadvantage. Both Seb and Jari-Matti have won on these roads, but Thierry will want to give Hyundai their first podium and perhaps it will be a win.

 

This is last year’s result.

 

  1. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (DS 3 WRC) 2:38:05.8
  2. Latvala / Anttila (VW Polo R WRC) +29.1
  3. Breen / Martin (DS 3 WRC) +1:41.3
  4. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:45.9
  5. Paddon / Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:48.2
  6. Østberg / Floene (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +2:04.6
  7. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (VW Polo R WRC) +2:22.4
  8. Lappi / Ferm (Skoda Fabia R5) +4:53.8
  9. Abbring / Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) +5:22.4
  10. Suninen / Markkula (Skoda Fabia R5) +5:35.5