Ott Tänak kicked off his campaign on the 2021 Secto Automotive Rally Finland in style by topping the times after the mandatory three passes of the Shakedown test this morning.
The 2019 FIA World Rally Champion, who is bidding for a hat-trick of Rally Finland victories this weekend, set a scorching time on his third run of 1m46.5s in his Hyundai i20 Coupé WRC to jump to the top, on the same 4.04-kilometre Vesala stage used for Shakedown that last time the rally was run in 2019 but this time completed in the opposite direction.
His fellow Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team driver Craig Breen was another late improver, setting a time of 1m46.8s to go second, just 0.3s down on Tänak. “Flat to the square right, it’s great. Not a worry in the world,” an upbeat Breen told WRC.com’s All Live service. “This is the last rally on gravel with these cars and I’m going to enjoy every second of it.”
Sébastien Ogier was third fastest in his Toyota Yaris WRC, but a significant 0.9sec down on Tänak’s impressive mark. “It’s really beautiful – I love the colours,” said the seven-time FIA World Rally Champion after his first run, on an event that usually takes place in the height of summer. “It was quite slippery for a first pass early in the morning. We have to see how the conditions are, it might be different, but it’s not what we are used to early in the morning.”
Thierry Neuville was fourth fastest in his Hyundai, ahead of EKO Acropolis Rally of Gods winner and the fastest Finn Kalle Rovanperä, who celebrates his 21st birthday today. Fellow Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT driver Elfyn Evans was sixth, leading two more Yaris WRCs driven by Esapekka Lappi and Takamoto Katsuta.
Adrien Fourmaux was ninth fastest in his M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Fiesta WRC, but there was early drama for team-mate Gus Greensmith. He set what turned out to be the 10th fastest time on his second run, but on his final pass was slowed by a misfire, dropping two minutes through the short Shakedown test.
Teemu Suninen was the fastest of the WRC2 runners in his new Movisport Volkswagen Golf WRC, his best time of 1m55.0s proving 0.6s faster than Oliver Solberg in his Hyundai i20 N Rally2.
The opening stage of Secto Automotive Rally Finland, the short 2.31-kilometre Harju test, gets underway at 13h30 local time.