Two Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta WRCs will embark on an epic fight for the final podium positions tomorrow – the final day of this year’s Neste Rally Finland.
With just 5.6 seconds separating Teemu Suninen in second from Elfyn Evans in fourth, an exciting battle awaits for the two young Fiesta drivers.
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s great to see both Teemu and Elfyn in with a chance of a podium. Both have driven extremely well – posting fastest times and relishing the challenge that these notoriously difficult roads have to offer.
“Once again, we’ve proven that the Fiesta is a formidable contender on any surface, and I must praise the work of the team. Following the disappointments for Sebastien and Ott on Friday morning, everyone continued to give their best and we wouldn’t be in this position were it not for that.
“Following the accident on Friday, Sébastien and Julien will take no further part in this weekend’s event. We’re extremely thankful to the organisers for allowing Julien to receive further tests before making this decision – after which it was clear that he should not restart.
“Julien’s wellbeing is our upmost priority and – with Rallye Deutschland so close – it is important that he has the opportunity to return fully fit in two weeks’ time.”
SUNINEN AND MARKKULA
Teemu Suninen has long been recognised as one of the FIA World Rally Championship’s future stars. Since taking to the wheel of a world rally car for the first time earlier this month, the young Finn has firmly established himself as a star of the present.
Currently holding second place overall, Suninen and co-driver Mikko Markkula have an opportunity to deliver a remarkable result through tomorrow’s final stages – a potential FIA World Rally Championship podium on what is only their second appearance at the sport’s highest level.
A quick learner, Suninen has made the transition from R5 to WRC with ease. Gaining knowledge and experience with each new kilometre, the 23-year-old has secured three stage victories this weekend and outshone a number of his more experienced rivals.
Despite his remarkable achievements thus far, the determined Finn remains acutely focused on his own rally and on improving his own performance through tomorrow’s closing stages.
SS14: 3rd (+3.2)
SS15: 5th (+6.7)
SS16: 9th (+33.6)
SS17: 4th (+1.1)
SS18: 3rd (+1.0)
SS19: 5th (+6.7)
SS21: 3rd (+1.9)
Teemu Suninen (2nd) said:
“I’m feeling good today. When I had a good feeling on the stages the times have been really good, but it was a disappointment to have lost so much time on Ouninpohja this morning. We lost about 20 seconds at a chicane and that has a big effect now as the fight is really tight.
“Tomorrow, I think all of us will have to keep the same pace as today if not more. I’ll continue to focus on my own driving – on keeping a good rhythm and on not making any mistakes.”
EVANS AND BARRITT
Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt made substantial gains throughout Rally Finland today. Having started the day in seventh place, the Brits are now locked in an intense battle for the final podium positions – just 1.3 seconds from the top-three and 5.6 seconds adrift of the top-two.
With no pre-event test, the pairing had to discover the optimum set-up through yesterday’s stages but came into their own today.
With more favourable conditions and a set-up which improved the balance of the DMACK-shod Ford Fiesta WRC, Evans grew in confidence. That additional confidence was visible in the times and the Welshman delivered a number of competitive stages including the fastest time through the last stage of the day.
Currently holding fourth place – and with the potential for more – Evans is on course for a strong result with just 33.84 competitive kilometres left to contest.
SS14: 6th (+5.8)
SS15: 2nd (+3.7)
SS16: 4th (+12.5)
SS17: 5th (+1.5)
SS18: 7th (+1.7)
SS19: =6th (+7.2)
SS20: 2nd (+1.3)
Elfyn Evans (4th) said:
“It will be an exciting day tomorrow. It’s fair to say that we were struggling yesterday, but it’s been a pretty positive day for us today.
“Everything seems to have come together and we’ve been happy with our performance on most of the stages.
“The conditions suited us a bit better today and we also found a better balance with the car which helped regain some of the confidence we had been lacking previously.
“It’s game on for tomorrow so let’s see what we can do.”
TÄNAK AND JÄRVEOJA
Having to forgo the lead of the rally yesterday morning, Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja are focused on securing points for the team’s championship campaign.
Missing the fight at the front, the Estonians lacked the confidence to fight for the top times, but made quick work of reining in their nearest rivals.
Climbing to seventh place overall, Tänak had the potential for more but remains on course to secure vital points for the team.
SS14: 7th (+6.4)
SS15: 6th (+7.5)
SS16: 5th (+14.1)
SS17: =2nd (+0.5)
SS18: =4th (+1.2)
SS19: =6th (+7.2)
SS20: 4th (+3.9)
SS21: 2nd (+0.6)
Ott Tänak (7th) said:
“The Finns have been quite dominant this weekend, but I think it would have been possible to be in that fight. After yesterday’s time loss there was no opportunity to see if we could do that and it’s difficult to find the same confidence when you are not fighting for the win.
“We’ve just been trying to improve the feeling without taking too many risks. That said, it’s still been a decent day and you can’t help but enjoy yourself on these Finnish roads.”
OGIER AND INGRASSIA
After further medical examinations and with the next round of the FIA World Rally Championship being so close, the team – in conjunction with advice from the organisers – have decided that Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia will take no further part in this weekend’s Rally Finland.
The main objective is now to ensure that co-driver Ingrassia has the best opportunity to be fully fit for Rallye Deutschland where the championship battle is set to continue.
Sébastien Ogier said:
“Unfortunately we won't be able to start tomorrow. It is safer for Julien to rest for two weeks and not jump into the car so soon. It's a shame but health comes first and I want him to recover as perfectly as possible. We both fully intend to fight back in Germany.”
1. Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:13:02.7
2. Teemu Suninen / Mikko Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) +49.1
3. Juho Hänninen / Kaj Lindstrom (Toyota Yaris WRC) +53.4
4. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +54.7
5. Craig Breen / Scott Martin (Citroen C3 WRC) +1:16.9
6. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai 120 Coupe WRC) +1:31.6
7. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2:07.5
8. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroen C3 WRC) +2:59.1
9. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai 120 Coupe WRC) +3:54.0
10. Mads Østberg / Torstein Eriksen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +4:23.6