On Saturday night, Ott Tanak was captain of Neste Rally Finland, after a rogue stone destroyed a spectacular three-way battle for supremacy in the fastest round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
The series leader completed the penultimate stage of the four-day test by 16.4 seconds in his Toyota Yaris on Esapekka Lappi. Tanak’s teammate, Jari-Matti Latvala, followed the Citroën C3 driver 12.4 seconds behind in third.
Fast and Furious Finnish Friday turned into a high-speed Saturday, with only six-tenths of the second lead, Latvala, Tanak and Chris Mickey Yaris third, as Toyota Gazoo Racing dominated the ninth round of the season.
Everything went wrong on the Kakaristo stage, with Latvala breaking through its left rear frame and Meeke quitting with a broken left rear suspension after they both hit the same rock shortly before the midpoint.
“It happened in the right turn, ” Latval Commentsto me. “There was a tangible last year so I blogged it.
“They removed the concrete, so I took my note a little faster and that was my mistake. I got into the trench a little bit, but there was a rock the size of a head.”
The Finn, who lost and regained their lead over Tanak overnight in the previous two rounds, lost over 14 seconds. The Estonian advantage was enough to be able to set the pace in the afternoon sections, as the track was very difficult.
“It was a good and no-hassle day for us. It started with a great boost, but this evening it was a clean run. It’s nice to have a little breathing space. Yesterday and this morning the time difference was zero.”Tanak said, who won three stages.
Labi, who seemed to be pulling away from the main battle this morning, regained his speed this afternoon. He had won two stages to overtake Latvala for the second time, and his rival knew he couldn’t stand any more mistakes in his pursuit of the Toyota Makers’ title.
While one battle ended, the battle intensified on the fourth. Andreas Mikkelsen, fellow Hyundai i20 Craig Breen, and champion Sébastien Ogier, who was awake all night with illness, switched places at nearly every stage.
All enjoyed a time on top, but when the race returned to Jyväskylä after nearly 133 kilometers of relentless action, Mikkelsen beat Auger by 2.6 seconds, with Brienne in 6.0 seconds.
Title competitor Thierry Nouvel failed to regain steam after a disappointing start yesterday. It finished seventh, ahead of duo Teemu Suninen and Gus Greensmith and WRC 2 Pro leader Kali Rovanbera.
Two lanes through Laukaa (11.75 km) and big jumps at Ruuhimäki (11.12 km) define the rally tomorrow Sunday at 45.74 km. Ruuhimäki’s second step constitutes the Wolf Power Stage, with bonus points for the five fastest drivers.
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