*Hyundai driver Tänak is two stages from WRC glory in Lapland
*Rovanperä set for final-stage fight with Neuville for the runner-up spot
*Flying Finn Lappi heading for WRC2 victory, Asunmaa leads WRC3
Arctic Rally Finland Powered by CapitalBox’s longest day served up more high-speed drama in Lapland’s winter wonderland with Finns Kalle Rovanperä and Jonne Halttunen moving up to second overall in their Toyota Yaris WRC.
However, there’s no stopping Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC pair Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja, who continue to lead round two of the 2021 FIA World Rally Championship.
With two stages to go on Sunday, including the points-paying Wolf Power Stage, Tänak/Järveoja lead by 24.1s.
Starting Saturday’s second leg with an advantage of 16.2s, Tänak/Järveoja extended that margin by winning stage three, Mustalampi. Although Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin were the team to beat on SS4, Tänak/Järveoja added SS5 and SS6 to their tally of stage wins.
Rovanperä/Halttunen were fastest on SS7 as Tänak switched to tyre preservation mode, the Estonian wary of how patches of gravel and ruts on the repeated stages were compromising the level of stud retention on his Pirelli Sottozero Ice tyres.
“We took all the tyres we had and we used them,” said Tänak. “This afternoon was about to get through and not do any mistaks. This morning we were still pushing a bit but the afternoon was very important to come through clean.”
While Tänak/Järveoja were quick on SS8, it was their team-mates Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe who were quicker still by an impressive 12.3s on the night-time run through Siikakämä, a performance that has put them to within 1.8s of second-placed Rovanperä/Halttunen.
Rovanperä/Halttunen won SS7 but the 20-year-old driver reported running out of optimal grip for SS8. But they have been given the greenlight by Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT team principal Jari-Matti Latvala to push hard to defend their runner-up spot on Sunday.
Craig Breen/Paul Nagle completed leg two in fourth overall, one place ahead of Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin. Teenage talent Oliver Solberg is a fine sixth on his World Rally Car debut with stand-in co-driver Seb Marshall, despite losing his glasses before Saturday’s final stage.
World champions Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia were sixth prior to SS8 but hit trouble within sight of the finish, going off two corners from the end and getting stuck in a snowbank. The Frenchmen spent some 20 minutes digging out their Yaris WRC before they were able to complete the run.
“Last real corner, the tyre were gone,” said Ogier. “I was a little bit too much sideway, hit the bank and then catch the front. I almost made it to the end. It’s a weekend to forget when you come here first on the road it’s always the same.”
Takamoto Katsuta/Daniel Barritt are seventh followed by M-Sport’s Flying Finns, Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula, in their Ford Fiesta WRC. Gus Greensmith/Ellliott Edmondson are ninth with runaway WRC2 leaders Esapakka Lappi/Janne Ferm 10th.
Pierre-Louis Loubet/Vincent Landais retired with a technical issued after SS6. Emil Lindholm/Mikael Korhonen were leading WRC3 but crashed out on SS4. Teemu Asunmaa/Marko Salminen lead the category as a resullt, 12.5s ahead of Estonians Egon Kaur/Silver Simm.
PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION AND OTHER EVENT INFORMATION: WRC.COM
COMING UP NEXT ON ARCTIC RALLY FINLAND POWERED BY CAPITALBOX
The inaugural Arctic Rally Finland Powered by CapitalBox will be decided over two runs of the 22.47-killometreAittajärvi stage south of Rovaniemi at 10:08 and 13:12 local time tomorrow (Sunday). Featuring a section through the farmhouses at Niemelä, the second visit forms the Wolf Power Stage when WRC drivers’ and manufacturers’ bonus points will be up for grabs.
Event website: https://arcticrallyfinland.fi/en/home/
Rally Radio: http://yle.fi/mmralli
More information and media activities:
Linda Hirvonen, National Press Officer, +358 (0) 45 3299696, firstname.lastname@example.org