Image: WRC - Rally Finland - Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja, M-Sport Ford WRT, Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid (photo: Nikos Katikis / DPPI)
Ott Tänak grabbed an early lead at Secto Rally Finland after winning Thursday evening’s Harju super special stage in the centre of host city Jyväskylä.
Tens of thousands of passionate fans poured out of the service park and into the streets to witness the FIA World Rally Championship’s ninth round get under way in central Finland. Tänak, driving an M-Sport Ford Puma, won the mixed-surface test by six-tenths of a second from Hyundai i20 N rival Thierry Neuville.
Tänak has a score to settle after a five-minute time penalty at the previous round prevented him from mounting a home victory bid. The Estonian has won in Finland on three occasions and, if his stage-end comments were anything to go by, he’ll stop at nothing to make it four.
“We will try, we will go all in,” he grinned. “Let's see where it gets us. The ones we are fighting are very strong obviously and we need to put everything on the line.”
Kalle Rovanperä made it an even spread of manufacturers inside the top three but the Jyväskylä local was lucky not to drop more than 0.7sec when he clipped a kerb with his Toyota GR Yaris’s rear-right wheel.
The defending champion, who led the series by 55 points ahead of this rally, praised attending fans for their support.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Rovanperä said. “I can almost hear the people from inside of the car, I know how loud it is. It feels so amazing in the car when you know the atmosphere is so great.”
Esapekka Lappi, winner here in 2017, brought his Hyundai home a second further back in fourth overall while Elfyn Evans rounded out the top five in another Toyota. He trailed Lappi by a single tenth and outpaced sixth-placed Pierre-Louis Loubet by 2.2sec.
Takamoto Katsuta, Teemu Suninen and guest entry Jari-Matti Latvala filled the following three positions while WRC2 hopeful Jari Huttunen completed the top 10 in a Škoda Fabia RS Rally2.
The rally heads into the forests today as crews tackle legendary stages including Laukaa and Myhinpää. Nine speed tests add up to 108.23km including one visit to service during the first full day.