Elfyn Evans (Toyota) has claimed his second victory of the year after Portugal and fifth of his WRC career at the Rally Finland WRC 2021 to keep alive hopes for his maiden WRC title. The Welshman defeated Ott Tänak (Hyundai) by 14.1 seconds after an outstanding weekend of driving. A brilliant Craig Breen (+42.2 seconds) completed the podium.
A sensational Esapekka Lappi and his Yaris WRC arrived in fourth place on his return to the World Rally Championship at home. The leader of the standings, Sebastien Ogier, had to settle for fifth place after he was given a one-minute penalty for using a poorly adjusted helmet on Saturday.
Evans has prevented his French partner from taking an eighth victory on Scandinavian soil this season, partly by his own merit and partly thanks to the misfortune of his teammate. Albeit remote,
Ogier still had options to win the tenth round of the calendar in the Scandinavian round. But the Welsh racer has managed to at least delay Ogier’s claim to the crown until the next and penultimate round of the World Championship in Spain and has reduced the gap to the leader from 44 to 33 points.
Rovanperä & Neuville disappoint
The greatest disappointments of the weekend came by the hand of Kallë Rovanperä (Toyota) and Thierry Neuville (Hyundai). Racing so close to the city of his birth (Jyväskylä), and with the support of his home fans, the former was one of the favourite candidates to win in Finland.
Rovanperä was also on a lucky streak after having achieved his second win of the season in Greece. On Saturday, however, a slip off the track in the tenth stage forced him to abandon, depriving the locals of their national idol. Similarly, Hyundais’s Belgian driver, fell victim to the extremely fast Scandinavian sections, on Saturday.
As for the Constructors’ Championship, Toyota is ruling the standings with an iron fist after taking its eighth win (Montecarlo, Portugal, Croatia, Sardegna, Kenya, Estonia, Greece & Finland) out of a possible ten this Sunday. The Yaris WRC is showing no mercy on the i20 Coupé WRC.
A great Saturday performance sends Evans on his way to victory
Evans, the undisputed protagonist of the Finnish Rally, secured his success in a faultless display during the second day of racing. On Friday, Evans finished third behind Breen and the then leader Tänak, 2.8 seconds ahead.
The small distance between the three leaders meant the Welsh driver started Saturday determined to climb to the front of the pack. Aware he could not waste the opportunity, an unstoppable Evans managed to prevail in all four morning stages. In the evening loop, however, Tänak counterattacked and was the fastest in four of the five remaining sets.
Both rivals staged a spectacular duel which ended with Evans taking a 9.1 seconds advantage into Sunday. Meanwhile, Breen kept his third place, a privileged seat from where to witness the intense battle between the Welshman and the Estonian.
Sunday’s epic battle
Saturday finished at the height of the tensions between the two victory rivals and Sunday’s battle started with the same intensity as it had ended the day before. Tänak prevailed in the initial section (SS16) by just 0.8 seconds over Evans but the Briton from Toyota responded by claiming the following two scratch times.
Evans did not want to take any unnecessary risks, just enough to keep the 2019 world champion – a consummated veteran of fast and intense head to heads – at bay.
Separated by only 12.4 seconds, the two colossi met in the final assault, the Wolf Power Stage, where anything could happen. In the end, Evans took the final stage by 1.6 seconds over Tänak, winning the last three sets of the day for a total of nine during the entire race.
Images of Rally Finland WRC 2021: Toyota.