Arctic Rally Finland: Day 1
Rovanperä the lead Toyota Yaris WRC driver in Rovaniemi
Kalle Rovanperä is the top TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team driver in third overall after the opening two stages of Arctic Rally Finland, with Elfyn Evans in fifth place and Sébastien Ogier in ninth.
Following a shakedown stage in the morning, the rally began with two passes of the longest test of the rally: the 31.05 kilometres of Sarriojärvi. Rovanperä recorded the third best time, and may have been faster had he not lost some time running wide in one turn and through a snowbank. He was then second quickest in the repeat pass, which took place in darkness, and is just over 20 seconds away from the rally leader overnight.
After their one-two finish on Rallye Monte-Carlo last month, Ogier and Evans had to open the road, meaning they encountered more loose snow and less grip than their rivals in unusually mild temperatures around zero degrees celsius. Evans was fifth fastest in both stages and is fifth overall, just under 12s behind Rovanperä. Ogier faced the worst of the conditions and is 17.8s further away, but should have an improved road position on Saturday. Takamoto Katsuta, driving a fourth Yaris WRC as part of the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRC Challenge Program, is in seventh overall.
Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal)
“Maybe it wasn’t the start for the rally that we were hoping for today. I think the weather conditions were a maybe little bit against us, because when the temperature is above zero degrees, the snow is quite soft and there’s a lot more grip available if you have wider lines to follow. With our cars being at the front, I think we lost more time in these temperatures than if it had been 10 degrees colder like we might have expected here in the north of Finland. So Seb and Elfyn were losing time because of that, and although Kalle unfortunately hit a snowbank but he had very good speed. Tomorrow is the most important day of the rally, and with new stages I think the time differences can be bigger than usual, so I think we still have a good chance to fight.”
Sébastien Ogier (Driver car 1)
“It was tough today, it was not an ideal start for us. I had hoped to be a little bit closer to the lead tonight. I was enjoying the driving but not the stage times. There wasn’t much we could do unfortunately. With colder temperatures it probably would have been better, but we had the first positive temperatures of the year here today and that didn’t help us running first on the road. It meant that the snow was very soft and the cleaning effect was huge, and it wasn’t any easier on the second pass. Tomorrow we have to keep trying and see what’s possible.”
Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)
“It has not been a bad start for me today. We were running early on the road which is perhaps not the best position to be in, but we had a clean run through the first stage and then I think we had a decent run through the second stage in the dark. The stage evolved a lot between the two passes with a mix of ruts and quite a lot of loose snow, so it was challenging. Today the main target was always to improve our road position for tomorrow, and we’ve managed to do that, so now we want to try and move up the order if we can.”
Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)
“The first stage started really well, but in one junction I made a mistake and I went wide into the snowbank. We almost got away with it but we had to reverse out. In the second stage I could already see in the beginning that the setup we had was not optimal for the conditions in the second pass with a lot of gravel coming through, and I was having a lot of understeer. That was hurting the front tyres, so the end of the stage was really tough. But I’m sure that we can find something with the setup for tomorrow and keep fighting.”
End of day one (Friday):
1 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) 31m50.7s
2 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +16.2s
3 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota Yaris WRC) +20.4s
4 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +29.8s
5 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota Yaris WRC) +32.0s
6 Teemu Suninen/Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +34.5s
7 Takamoto Katsuta/Dan Barritt (Toyota Yaris WRC) +38.8s
8 Oliver Solberg/Seb Marshall (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +45.9s
9 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota Yaris WRC) +49.8s
10 Gus Greensmith/Elliott Edmondson (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1m05.8s
(Results as of 20:30 on Friday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)
Saturday is the longest day of the rally, featuring over half of the total competitive distance. It consists of a loop of three stages to the east of Rovaniemi, repeated either side of mid-day service.