*Järveoja co-drives fellow Estonian Tänak to stunning victory for Hyundai
*Santa Claus, Rovaniemi’s most famous resident, presents the winners’ trophies
*Wolf Power Stage pacesetter Rovanperä finishes second and tops the WRC standings
*Lappi and Asunmaa claim WRC2 and WRC3 gold for Finland respectively
*FIA President Jean Todt joins rallying community in honouring legend Mikkola
Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja scored their 14th FIA World Rally Championship triumph with a dominant victory on the first Arctic Rally Finland Powered by CapitalBox, which reached a thrilling climax south of event base in Rovaniemi earlier today.
Driving a Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC for the Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team, the Estonians led from the start and were exceptional throughout on the high-speed Lapland forest roads, which provided a spectacular backdrop to this all-new event – and stunning images for fans watching on TV and online in the safety of their homes around the world.
“First when you come to a new event you never know what to expect,” said Tänak, who was also the winner when the WRC last visited Finland for the traditional Jyväskylä-based Rally Finland in the summer of 2019. “This weekend we came to Finland, kind of home country of Toyota and also Rovanperä was expected to be very strong. The pressure was there for sure and we knew it was going to be very, very complicated to take the fight. But in the end we did a very good weekend, just enough, nothing too much and only one mistake yesterday. [Lapland] is an amazing place, definitely one of the best place to have a winter rally, I guess there is no place you can have more snow and also the characteristic of the roads, especially yesterday it was so demanding.”
Placing 17.5s behind Tänak/Järveoja, Flying Finns Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen secured the runner-up spot – their best finish in the WRC to date – after winning the Wolf Power Stage in their Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT-entered Yaris WRC.
The result puts them on top of the FIA World Rally Championship after two rounds, with Rovanperä becoming the youngest driver in history to lead the title order.
“For sure this weekend I wanted to fight for the top place but I made a mistake and we were not in the optimal pace,” said the 20-year-old, who was the only leading driver to carry two spare Pirelli Sottozero Ice tyres on leg three. “But I have to say I was pushing the whole weekend, maximum all the time. It was a good weekend from my side and Jonne’s side. We did everything that we could. It’s nice to get the P2 here. It was not the perfect weekend but quite nice.”
Craig Breen/Paul Nagle had an eventful start to Sunday’s deciding leg when their Hyundai mechanics heroically completed a gearbox change during this morning’s 15-minute service at the Santasport complex in Rovaniemi. Although Breen wasn’t satisfied with his first run through the 22.47-kilometre Aittjärvi stage, he was second quickest when the test was repeated as the points-paying Wolf Power Stage, a performance that secured fourth in the overall results behind third-placed Hyundai team-mates Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe.
Neuville/Wydaeghe, who were competing together for only the second time, were the highest-seeded finishers, having started the event in third position on the road. The Belgians were 2.3s behind Rovanperä/Halttunen after the 10 flat-out, ice-packed stages.
Elfyn Evans/Scottt Martin finished fifth with Takamoto Katsuta/Daniel Barritt snatching sixth place in the overall classification by 1.2s from Oliver Solberg/Sebastian Marshall when the teenaged World Rally Car rookie spun into a snowbank a handful of corners from the finish of the Wolf Power Stage.
Pierre-Louis Loubet/Vincent Landais also spun at the same corner, although a technical issue had already slowed their Hyundai after they restarted on day three following technical issues on Saturday.
Finns Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula headed home M-Sport Ford team-mates Gus Greensmith/Elliott Edmondson in eighth. Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm secured the WRC2 category honours in a fine 10th position following a dominant display by the Finns. Another all-Finnish pairing, Teemu Asunmaa/Marko Salminen, won WRC3.
“It was a strong weekend definitely,” said Lappi. “I am so grateful for my sponsors to have the chance to be here. I am really glad that we had a high level of competition in our class. It went better than I expected. I could’ve driven faster. There is no need to drive with the same ‘attack mode’ than in the WRC class.”
Janne Tuohino/Reeta Hämäläinen were non-starters this morning after Tuhino dislocated his left shoulder in a non-rallying accident.
Following their time-consuming off into a snowbank on Saturday’s final stage, world champions Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia, secured the final Wolf Power Stage point with the fifth fastest time behind rally winners Tänak/Järveoja.
FIA President Jean Todt joins rallying community in honouring legend Mikkola
Jean Todt, President of the FIA, motorsport’s world governing body, joined the rallying community in remembering the life of legendary Finn Hannu Mikkola during a minute of silence prior to the podium ceremony. Mikkola, the 1983 FIA World Rally champion whom Todt once co-drove during his competition career, passed away on Friday evening aged 78.
Mayor of Rovaniemi reflects on hugely successful first Arctic Rally Finland
The Mayor of Rovaniemi, Ulla-Kirsikka Vainio, has commented following a hugely successful inaugural Arctic Rally Finland Powered by CapitalBox
“It has been a great pleasure and we are very honoured to have the WRC event here in Rovaniemi,” she said. “The Arctic Rally Finland fits perfectly into our winter. I would like to thank the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), AKK Sports and several others involved in the organising process. Having the eyes of the international rallying world turning to our arctic and wintry hometown thanks to this event has been fantastic. Whenever the COVID-19 situation allows it, we wish everyone warmly welcome to Rovaniemi for a visit.”
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OTHER USEFUL LINKS:
Event website: https://arcticrallyfinland.fi/en/home/
Rally Radio: http://yle.fi/mmralli