WRC Rally Finland: Dominant Evans wins 7/8 stages on Saturday, leads by 32.1s

WRC Finland: Dominant Evans wins 7 stages on Saturday, leads by 32.1s

Elfyn Evans holds a 32.1-second lead over Thierry Neuville heading into the final day at Rally Finland. The Toyota driver dominated on Saturday at round 9 of the 2023 WRC season as he won seven of the eight stages.

Evans had a near-perfect day after winning seven stages out of eight stages today. The Welshman started the day with a 6.9-second advantage over Neuville while being 16.4 seconds ahead of Katsuta in P3.

In the opening stage, Evans increased his lead by 4.6s to 11.5s. It proved to be a preview of what was to come on Saturday. Neuville was 0.4s shy in the next stage (SS12) and 3.4s behind the Welshman in SS13: “To be honest I’m on the maximum I can do. […] I had the perfect stage”, said Neuville at SS13 stage-end.

After the final stage of the morning loop, Neuville was asked if he could catch Evans. Neuville’s answer was clear: “From pure performance, no.”

At mid-day service Evans’ advantage was up to 17.7 seconds and added 7.8s, 4.5s and 2.8s in SS15, SS16 and SS17 respectively to lead by over half a minute with one stage to go on Saturday. Evans had won all seven stages today but was denied the clean sweep by his team-mate Takamoto Katsuta who clocked the fastest time in a tricky final stage where the ruts were full of water.

“No, I didn’t push [for the clean sweep]. It was very, very tricky to be honest. I was on the careful side. It was just about getting through safely,” said Evans who heads into Sunday with a 32.1-second advantage over Neuville in P2.

Katsuts vs Suninen for the final podium spot

Katsuta was in a battle for the final podium spot with Teemu Suninen all day long. Suninen went up to P3 in the second stage of the day and held it at mid-day, but was overtaken by Katsuta in the first stage after the break.

In the stage after, Suninen went back up to P3 by just 0.3s and narrowly held on to the place in the penultimate stage by just a tenth of a second. However, Katsuta’s stage-winning pace in SS18 meant that the Japanese driver, with advice from his team-mate Kalle Rovanperä, occupies P3 overnight. His advantage over Suninen is just 6.4 seconds.

Jari-Matti Latvala still holds P5 overall on his one-off Rally1 outing ahead of Oliver Solberg in P6. Solberg isn’t registered in the WRC2 this weekend but is the fastest driver in Rally2 machinery after Saturday. Sami Pajari is 12.5s behind Solberg and leads the WRC2 category by 33.9 seconds over Adrien Fourmaux. Nikolay Gryazin is in P9 after overtaking Andreas Mikkelsen in the final stage. Mikkelsen suffered a puncture in the final stage and end the day 19.9s behind Gryazin.

Find everything you need to know (Itinerary, Maps, Rally Guides, Entry list) about WRC Rally Finland here.

Don’t miss anything from the action at Rally Finland via our social media channels:
– Facebook
– X / Twitter
– Instagram

Tomorrow there are four more stages scheduled, totalling 51,64 competitive kilometres. The first stage of the day SS19, gets underway at 7:53 local time (6:53 CEST, 5:53 BST). The final power stage starts at 13:15 local time (12:15 CEST, 11:15 BST}.

WRC Rally Finland 2023 – O/A standings after Saturday (SS18)

#DriversCarTime / Diff. to 1st
1.Evans / MartinToyota GR Yaris Rally12:08:07.0
2.Neuville / WydaegheHyundai i20 N Rally1+32.1
3.Katsuta / JohnstonToyota GR Yaris Rally1+1:27.8
4.Suninen / MarkkulaHyundai i20 N Rally1+1:34.2
5.Latvala / HänninenToyota GR Yaris Rally1+3:39.5
6.Solberg / EdmondsonSkoda Fabia RS Rally2+8:05.0
7.Pajari / MälkönenSkoda Fabia RS Rally2+8:17.5
8.Fourmaux / CoriaFord Fiesta Rally2+8:51.4
9.Gryazin / AleksandrovSkoda Fabia RS Rally2+9:42.7
10.Mikkelsen / EriksenSkoda Fabia RS Rally2+10:02.6

Photo: Toyota Gazoo Racing