Thierry Neuville and Ott Tänak gave their Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team a strong start to Secto Rally Finland by ending up 1-2 at the top of the times for the first stage on Thursday evening in Jyväskylä.
Belgian Neuville set a benchmark time of 2m41.7s in his Hyundai i20 N Rally1, with Tänak 1.2s slower over the 3.48-kilometre Harju parkland test that runs through the rally’s host city.
“I always like the superspecial stages and I had some great fun in there, but tomorrow is a whole different world,” said Neuville, who expressed some concern about his feeling going into the rally despite his excellent time on the stage. “At the moment I do not feel comfortable. We made some set-up changes in shakedown and I’m crossing my fingers that tomorrow I will have a better feeling.”
Takamoto Katsuta was another to be worried despite setting the third fastest time on a stage that runs close to his home. “We have no hybrid boost,” he reported. “It’s not nice to be like this at the start, but hopefully the team can fix it.”
The Japanese driver’s Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT team-mate and FIA World Rally Championship leader Kalle Rovanperä got off to a solid start on his home rally. He will head into Friday’s opening leg 2.7s down on Neuville. “Of course, the feeling and expectations are there, but I think I put them on my own side anyway to try and win every rally,” said the 21-year-old. “The situation is the same, we just have more support and it’s a crazy atmosphere.”
Jari Huttunen was all smiles at the end of his first stage in a Rally1 car, as the Finn began his graduation to WRC’s top level with the fifth quickest time – fastest of the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Puma Rally1s.
Welshman and 2021 Rally Finland winner Elfyn Evans was sixth in his Toyota GR Yaris Rally1, ahead of team-mate Esapekka Lappi, the 2017 winner. Pierre-Louis Loubet’s Puma was eighth, Oliver Solberg’s Hyundai ninth and Adrien Fourmaux completed the top 10 for M-Sport.
Miko Marczyk was the fastest of the WRC2 runners in his Škoda Fabia Rally1 Evo, behind the last of the Rally1 entries, M-Sport’s Craig Breen and Gus Greensmith.
The 11.75-kilometre Laukaa stage kicks off leg one on Friday morning with the first car due on stage at 08h00 local time.
Photo: Touho Häkkinen