WRC Rally Finland: Tänak holds off charging Rovanperä for lead on Saturday

WRC Finland: Tänak holds off charging Rovanperä for lead on Saturday

Ott Tänak leads Rally Finland by 8.4 seconds heading into the final day. The 2019 WRC champion held championship leader Kalle Rovanperä, who won six out of the eight stages today, at bay on Saturday.

The Estonian driver pushed his Hyundai i20 N to its limits on superfast gravel stages clustered around the Jämsä region, maintaining his position at the head of the field with just four stages remaining.

Wet conditions early in the day weren’t quite to Tänak’s liking, although he arrived back to the mid-leg service in a slightly more comfortable position than when he had left first thing in the morning.

He was more confident on the drier, grippier second pass and set a similar pace with championship leader Kalle Rovanperä, who surged through the field to end the day just 8.4sec in arrears.

The competition in Finland is traditionally very tight and, with Sunday’s itinerary adding up to just 43.92km, Rovanperä would need to be on another level to realistically overturn the leader.

“It’s still a bit of a surprise to be where we are at the moment, but definitely it’s been a good day considering the conditions that we had,” reflected Tänak. “We really thought we would lose a lot more time and actually we are doing good.”

Rovanperä was the driver of the day, taking out six stage wins in his Toyota.

He was hampered by loose road-opening conditions on Friday which left him down in fourth overall, but the Finn blitzed Toyota team-mates Elfyn Evans and Esapekka Lappi to climb the order.

“We lost quite a lot of time yesterday, but today we have been trying our best to catch it,” he said. “It’s not easy because the gaps are so small, but we have good points coming and tomorrow we just need to finish the job.”

Lappi was feeling frustrated after his car scooped up a stray rock on SS16 which cracked the windscreen, drastically reducing visibility. He had to err on the side of caution over countless blind crests and trailed Rovanperä by 26.8sec to fill the final podium spot.

Evans, too, was in trouble. His Yaris took a heavy compression on the penultimate stage which damaged the rear left upright and suspension strut.

Frantic repairs were made using ratchet straps and cable ties and the Welshman nursed the car through Vekkula 2, dropping almost one minute while amazingly still holding his position in fourth overall.

Thierry Neuville’s Hyundai squad fitted new differentials to the car overnight and he enjoyed a drama-free day. The Belgian was a lonely fifth overall – 45.8sec behind Evans but with 42.0sec in hand over Toyota youngster Takamoto Katsuta, who threw away time with a series of spins.

Craig Breen was the day’s only frontrunning casualty and retired from fifth overall in the second stage. The Irishman misjudged his line over a high-speed jump, colliding with a rock which ripped a rear wheel from his Puma.

43.92 competitive kilometres remain at Rally Finland on Sunday. The first of four stages, Oittila, starts at 08:23 local time (07:23 CEST, 06:23 BST). Find everything you need to know about Rally Finland here!

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WRC Rally Finland 2022 – Standings after SS18 (End of Saturday)

#DriversCarTime / Diff. to 1st
1.Tänak / JärveojaHyundai i20 N Rally12:02:44.0
2.Rovanperä / HalttunenToyota GR Yaris Rally1+8.4
3.Lappi / FermToyota GR Yaris Rally1+35.2
4.Evans / MartinToyota GR Yaris Rally1+1:19.7
5.Neuville / WydaegheHyundai i20 N Rally1+2:05.5
6.Katsuta / JohnstonToyota GR Yaris Rally1+2:47.5
7.Greensmith / AnderssonFord Puma Rally1+3:23.0
8.Loubet / LandaisFord Puma Rally1+3:27.2
9.Suninen / MarkkulaHyundai i20 N Rally2+7:56.8
10.Lindholm / HämäläinenSkoda Fabia Rally2 Evo+8:07.5

Photo, text: Red Bull Content Pool