Drama for Rovanperä in his home rally

  • Flying Finns Rovanperä/Halttunen uninjured after crashing out of the lead in Myhinpää
  • Lappi/Ferm and Tänak/Järveoja also fail to go the distance on action-packed opening leg
  • Evans/Martin lead Neuville/Wydaeghe overnight in Jyväskylä by narrow margin of 6.9s
  • Local legend Latvala up to fifth on WRC comeback drive alongside Hänninen

High hopes of a home win in the FIA World Rally Championship came crashing down on stage eight of Secto Rally Finland this afternoon when the seemingly unthinkable happened.

World champions Kalle Rovanperä and Jonne Halttunen, leading by 5.7s having landed a fifth stage win in a row, crashed out on the second run through the legendary Myhinpää test, which is back on the event itinerary in 2023 having not featured since 2015.

Although Rovanperä/Halttunen climbed out of their overturned Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid without injury, the #69 Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT entry was badly damaged with confirmation of a restart on Saturday still pending as the day-closing Harju 2 stage got under way in Jyväskylä.

While the event was still in its early stages Rovanperä/Halttunen had been on course to win Secto Rally Finland for the first time, a result that would have ended a six-year wait for a home victory on the WRC’s fastest round.

Rovanperä, who started his home rally 55 points ahead in the championship chase, called the incident 11.1 kilometres through the 15.51-kilomete Myhinpää stage a “stupid crash” during an interview afterwards.

He added: “We just went into one right-hander and the speed was fine and after the braking it felt the corner was going to be good. I didn’t expect anything to happen [but there] was a big slide that I couldn’t correct. Normally you go through somewhere fast and you know you made a mistake but it went and that was it. I tried to correct it and couldn’t do it.”

Evans leads Secto Rally Finland

Elfyn Evans and Scott Martin capitalised on their team-mates’ misfortune to lead an event they won in 2021. But their initial advantage of 10.9s was down to 9.7s after Thierry Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe made it two stage wins in a row through Halttula this afternoon.

At the end of the rain-hit Harju 2, which he completed 2.8s slower than Neuville after a half-spin cost vital time, Evans said: “Overall it’s been an okay day. We’re pretty happy overall and obviously we’ve still got a lot of driving to do tomorrow.”

After making it a hat-trick of stage wins with his rapid Harju 2 time, Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team driver Neuville will start Saturday’s second leg 6.9s behind Evans as he hunts down his first Secto Rally Finland victory.

“It was a good stage but on the first hairpin I stuck in second gear and had to push the clutch to get speed,” the Belgian said at the finish of the mixed-surface superspecial. “Other than this it was a clean run.

Jyväskylä-based Japanese driver Takamoto Katsuta completes the overnight podium alongside co-driver Aaron Johnston. The Toyota duo were fastest on the day-opening Laukaa stage, held in damp conditions following overnight rain, and posted several top-three times thereafter to complete Friday’s running 16.4s behind Evans/Martin and 9.5s down on Neuville/Wydaeghe.

Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula are the top Finnish crew in fourth, 12.4s behind Katsuta/Johnston. “I have been quite happy with the day,” said Suninen, who is making only his second WRC start in a Hybrid i20 N Rally1 Hybrid. “It’s been super tricky conditions with the rain and the grip changes but I have been happy with the car, that’s a good thing. The dream is still alive to get the podium but we need to have a good Saturday.”

Switching from his role as Toyota team principal for his first WRC appearance since Rally Sweden in February 2020, three-time Rally Finland winner Jari-Matti Latvala is in fifth position after 10 stages. “Generally it’s been a very good day and we can be very pleased with the performance,” said the 38-year-old, who is being co-driven by Juho Hänninen.

Hyundai-driving Finns Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm were in fourth position, 9.2s off the lead, when they crashed into a tree 3.5 kilometres from the start of Halttula 1.

Overnight leaders Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja retired their M-Sport Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid from second position on SS3 with a mechanical failure. “In a very fast place, it seems like we touched bedrock or something on the road in a compression. After Estonia this isn’t how we wanted this week to go. It’s a shame we can’t continue but the car is too damaged for us to carry on.”

Pierre-Louis Loubet/Nicolas Gilsoul retired on the same stage when they went off the road to complete a frustrating opening leg for the British M-Sport team.

Jari Huttunen is leading WRC2

While the prospects of an outright victory for a Finnish driver are limited, there’s a strong chance of home success in the FIA WRC2 category, which Jari Huttunen/Antti Haapala lead, albeit by a slender advantage of 12.9s over compatriots Sami Pajari/Enni Mälkönen.

The former pairing took the category lead on Friday’s first stage and were ahead until a puncture slowed them on Halttula 2, which gave the initiative back to Huttunen/Haapala.

Finns Benjamin Korhola/Pekka Kelender top the WRC3 order after leg one followed by Jesse Kallio and Jussi Lindberg.

Coming up next: The Saturday Challenge

Four double-use stages combine to form Saturday’s challenge and cover a total of 160.68 kilometres. The all-new Västilä test is first on the agenda from 08h05 local time, while the Vekkula run is 20.65 kilometres in length and forms the rally’s longest stage.

Photo: Toni Ollikainen/AKK

search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close