Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt stormed to a sensational second place at this weekend’s Neste Rally Finland – securing the Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC’s twelfth podium of the year.
Proving competitive on any surface, the Fiesta set six fastest stage times including a 1-2-3 through the second pass of Päijälä (SS21) and a 1-2-3-4 though the second pass of Pihlajakoski (SS20).
Evans’ result – as well as that of early leader Ott Tänak – has strengthened the team’s position at the head of the manufacturer standings and, despite having to withdraw from the rally, Sébastien Ogier has maintained the joint lead of the drivers’ championship.
Elsewhere in the team, local hero Teemu Suninen had been challenging Evans for second position, but fell to fourth with a high-speed spin through the penultimate stage. Despite the disappointment, the young Finn delivered an extremely impressive performance on what was only his second appearance at the sport’s highest level.
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Considering where we were on Friday afternoon, second position is a great result. Once Elfyn found the confidence that he had been lacking early on, he made quick work of climbing the order and his performance today was fantastic. He hasn’t made a single mistake all weekend and should be extremely proud of this result.
“Our record of podium finishes continues unbroken and we’ve strengthened our lead in the manufacturer championship – proving the Fiesta’s performance on every surface.
“The team have continued to give 100 percent and, even after the disappointments on Friday, Sébastien has maintained the joint lead of the drivers’ championship with Ott climbing to third.
“Teemu too has been sensational. It was a shame for him to miss out in the fight for the podium, but we can see the potential and his speed has not gone unnoticed.
“He has made the transition from R5 to WRC with incredible ease and I can’t imagine we’ll have to wait too long to see him challenging for a victory.”
EVANS AND BARRITT
Securing second positon at this weekend’s Neste Rally Finland, Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt put in a stunning performance to contradict the assumption that time cannot be recovered at such high speeds.
Having missed their pre-event test, the Brits struggled with the balance of their DMACK-shod Ford Fiesta WRC through the opening day – languishing in seventh position after the first thirteen stages.
But as the conditions improved, Evans found a more favourable set-up and the confidence to boot. With his newfound momentum, the Welshman became the field’s comeback kid and set a number of consistently strong times – including the fastest time through second pass of Päijälä (SS21) – to climb five places from seventh to second.
Starting today’s action in fourth place, Evans was locked in an intense battle for the podium positions – 1.3 seconds adrift of third and 5.6 seconds adrift of second.
As the fight entered the final stage, Evans was in third place – 0.9 seconds shy of equalling his best result of the season. Posting the second fastest time, he secured second place by just 0.3 seconds to claim his first podium on Finland’s legendary roads.
SS22: 3rd (+1.8)
SS23: 3rd (+3.7)
SS24: 5th (+1.1)
SS25: 2nd (+1.5)
Elfyn Evans (2nd) said:
“We’re really chuffed to come away from Rally Finland with second place – especially as that wasn’t looking likely on Friday evening. We kept at it, kept pushing and managed to claw our way back up the leader board. It’s a really positive way to finish the weekend.
“Friday was a very difficult day for us. We started without a test and were really struggling with the balance of the car throughout that opening day. We made some changes which helped quite a lot and the longer stages and drier conditions helped too. We started making our way up the order and it all went from there.
“Going into this morning, it was a very difficult situation to be in. There was an element of wanting to push for the best result, but at the same time it was really important to secure good points for the team. It wasn’t an all-out attack, but it all worked out in the end.
“It’s not the win, but it’s still a strong weekend and we can be pleased with the job we have done this weekend.”
SUNINEN AND MARKKULA
Teemu Suninen and Mikko Markkiula delivered a stunning performance on home soil this weekend – running as high as second overall before having to settle for fourth.
Claiming three stage victories behind the wheel of the Ford Fiesta WRC, Suninen had been on pace all weekend and made the transition from R5 to WRC with ease.
Locked in an intense battle for the podium positions through today’s closing stages, it was looking good before a high-speed spin on the penultimate stage (SS24).
The mistake may have cost the 23-year-old the chance of fighting for the podium, but he will take encouragement from his impressive speed.
Suninen has long been considered one of rallying’s brightest future talents. After his performances this month, he has firmly established himself as a talent of the present.
SS22: 8th (+5.4)
SS23: 2nd (+3.2)
SS24: 21st (+19.3)
SS25: 11th (+11.3)
Teemu Suninen (4th) said:
“Of course it’s disappointing to have lost out on a podium in the final stages, but we had to try. This is our last planned rally in a world rally car, so I had to try. Unfortunately, I just ran a little bit wide and had a high-speed spin which dropped us out of that battle.
“I’m disappointed right now, but in the morning I think I will feel better – knowing that I was fighting for a podium on only my second time in this car.
“We had really good pace all weekend – honestly more than we had expected before the rally – and I am happy with that. A big thanks also to all of the fans and the team for their support which has been pushing me to do my best.”
TÄNAK AND JÄRVEOJA
Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja will be lamenting what could have been at this weekend’s Neste Rally Finland – leading the field before a mistake through the first pass of Jukojärvi (SS4) relegated them from first to thirteenth place.
Regrouping, the Estonians focused on securing points for the team’s championship campaign. Despite lacking the confidence that comes with a fight at the front, the pairing proved that it is possible to gain time and climbed ahead of the team’s main rivals.
Hinting at what could have been, Tänak also secured maximum points with the fastest time through the Power Stage and has climbed to third place in the drivers’ championship.
SS22: =5th (+4.7)
SS23: 6th (+7.7)
SS24: 3rd (+0.5)
Ott Tänak (7th) said:
“The Finns have been quite dominant this weekend but I think we had the pace to be in the fight. Unfortunately, we will never know what would have been possible – our disappointment coming quite early in the rally.
“To score the top times here in Finland you need to be fully confident, and it’s hard to find that when you’re not fighting for the best positions. But it’s still been a fairly decent weekend. Driving in Finland is always a lot of fun and we showed our speed with the fastest time through the Power Stage.”
1. Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:29:26.9
2. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +36.0
3. Juho Hänninen / Kaj Lindstrom (Toyota Yaris WRC) +36.3
4. Teemu Suninen / Mikko Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:01.5
5. Craig Breen / Scott Martin (Citroen C3 WRC) +1:22.6
6. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai 120 Coupe WRC) +1:33.1
7. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:53.6
8. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroen C3 WRC) +3:12.6
9. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai 120 Coupe WRC) +4:11.5
10. Mads Østberg / Torstein Eriksen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +4:21.2
=1. Sébastien Ogier - 160
=1. Thierry Neuville - 160
3. Ott Tänak - 119
4. Jari-Matti Latvala - 114
5. Dani Sordo - 84
6. Elfyn Evans - 79
7. Craig Breen - 53
8. Hayden Paddon - 51
9. Juha Hänninen - 46
10. Esapekka Lappi - 45
1. M-Sport World Rally Team - 285
2. Hyundai Motorsport - 251
3. Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC - 193
4. Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team - 135