Rally Finland: Day 2 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing leads after a dramatic Friday in Finland

2023.8.4 (Fri)

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team’s Elfyn Evans leads Rally Finland at the end of a dramatic first full day on Friday as difficult conditions caught out a number of drivers.

Car 33 (Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin)
Car 33 (Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin)

Wet weather has marked the lead up to the high-speed gravel event and continued as the action moved to the forests following Thursday evening’s opening street stage in Jyväskylä. TGR-WRT made a strong start to its home event, with local hero and championship leader Kalle Rovanperä claiming the lead in the morning’s opener Laukaa before three consecutive stage wins over the rest of the morning – the damp surface leaving him at less of a disadvantage opening the road than normally.

As usual on the fastest rally of the season, the time gaps between drivers were small and especially between the TGR-WRT crews, with Evans only 3.9 seconds away from Rovanperä after the morning loop while Takamoto Katsuta was fastest of all in Laukaa and fighting for the podium.

The fine margins in the slippery conditions were already demonstrated by several retirements in the top class during the morning, and intensifying rain made things even more difficult in the afternoon with mud and standing water. Rovanperä continued to set the pace in the first two stages after mid-day service, but was caught out in the second pass of Myhinpää, sliding towards a ditch that caused his car to roll upside down. He and co-driver Jonne Halttunen were unhurt, and the team will inspect the damaged car to see if a restart is possible tomorrow.

Evans took over the lead and ended a consistent day’s driving in the demanding conditions with an advantage of 6.9 seconds over second-placed Thierry Neuville (Hyundai). Katsuta moved up into third on pace at the start of the afternoon and remains there overnight, within 9.5s of Neuville and 12.4s ahead of fourth-placed Teemu Suninen (Hyundai).

Jari-Matti Latvala is fifth overall and enjoying his first Rally Finland start as a driver since 2019, as well as his first experience with the GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID.

Akio Toyoda (TGR-WRT Chairman)

“I am enjoying being here at Rally Finland. I’m here to cheer for the drivers and as long as the team is happy, then I am happy in my role here as Team Principal. I know that what happened to Kalle was disappointing for him because he was really looking forward to his home rally, but the most important thing is that both he and Jonne are fine. Hopefully we can repair the car and they can restart tomorrow. Elfyn is leading after a great performance today, and I hope he can continue with a great performance tomorrow as well. Takamoto was also very fast today. He has been living in Jyväskylä for many years and I hope the locals will support him too. Jari-Matti has been smiling and enjoying the driving on his 210th WRC start, and this is what I wanted to see. We still have two days to go but everything is looking good and everybody in the team is doing a very good job.”

Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)
“The day was going well. We had a good morning loop as the first car on the road, and it was a nice fight with Elfyn. We could be a little bit quicker without over pushing. The way we crashed was quite unfortunate and I feel like I couldn’t have done much more in this corner. Under braking the speed felt fine, but as first car in the mud we had a big slide. Even with full lock steering I couldn’t straighten the car, and in the ditch we hit something hard which sent us flying. It’s definitely a pity for the team and for the fans that we are out of the fight like this. Hopefully the car is OK and we can get back out there tomorrow.”

Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)
“We had a good start this morning, quite clean with no big mistakes. It was pretty fast-paced out there and there were a few small places where we could have been better, which can be frustrating when the gaps are only a few tenths of a second on each stage. It was quite wet on and off during the day and grip was not so high, but I generally enjoyed it in the car. The conditions caught a few people out, and unfortunately Kalle was also one of those. He was doing a great job and I was sorry to see him go out that way. There’s still a long way to go, and although tomorrow should be a drier day, we could still be in for some slippery conditions.”

Takamoto Katsuta (Driver car 18)
“We started very well this morning with the stage win in Laukaa. I like that stage but the beginning section was new, so I was not sure how the time would be. But I felt very good with the car and we had a good run. Then in the following stages I was a bit too careful and losing quite a bit of time. The conditions this afternoon especially were very tricky and changing a lot. But overall, I’m quite happy as we’re still pretty close to the top positions. Hopefully we can continue like this tomorrow and try to push a bit more, but it will be a big day and a big challenge.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (Driver car 97)
“It’s been a great day in the car. I could never have imagined that we could be fifth overall after Friday. We haven’t been so fast, but I tried to keep everything under control and have a good rhythm. We have been about six tenths of a second per kilometre from the fastest guys, which is better than I expected, so I’m really happy with that. It’s an amazing feeling driving this car. Some of the stages have been really nice, and some of the conditions have been really difficult. We’ve not had this kind of Rally Finland with such variable conditions for a very long time. Hopefully tomorrow we can continue having a really nice experience.”

End of day two (Friday):
1 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) 51m34.4s
2 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +6.9s
3 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +16.4s
4 Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +28.8s
5 Jari-Matti Latvala/Juho Hänninen (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +1m23.7s
6 Jari Huttunen/Antti Haapala (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +3m14.1s
7 Sami Pajari/Enni Mälkönen (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +3m27.0s
8 Nikolay Gryazin/Konstantin Aleksandrov (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +3m27.3s
9 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +3m28.8s
10 Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (Ford Fiesta Rally2) +3m36.4s
TBC Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID)
(Results as of 21:00 on Friday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)

What's next?
Saturday is the longest day of the rally at 160.68 competitive kilometres and takes the action furthest south-west with the opening Västilä stage, which was last run in 2001. Päijälä, Rapsula and Vekkula complete a loop of four stages to be run either side of mid-day service in Jyväskylä, taking in some classic Rally Finland roads.

Car 69 (Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen)
Car 69 (Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen)
Elfyn Evans
Elfyn Evans
Car 18 (Takamoto Katsuta, Aaron Johnston)
Car 18 (Takamoto Katsuta, Aaron Johnston)
Car 97 (Jari-Matti Latvala, Juho Hänninen)
Car 97 (Jari-Matti Latvala, Juho Hänninen)