Rally Finland: Day 3 Flying Elfyn storms super Saturday with TOYOTA GAZOO Racing

2023.8.5 (Sat)

Elfyn Evans dominated the biggest day of Rally Finland for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team to close in on victory on the high-speed gravel spectacular.

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

As usual in Finland, Saturday was the longest day of the event with 160.68 competitive kilometres to be tackled across two loops of four stages in the forests south-west of Jyväskylä. Following a dramatic Friday, conditions in the stages remained slippery and changeable.

Evans started the morning with a lead of just 6.9 seconds over Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) before producing an impressive streak of stage wins. He increased his margin to 17.7s by mid-day service, and set some even more commanding times in the afternoon: going 7.8s faster than anybody else in SS15 on a rally where stages are frequently decided by mere tenths of a second.

His stage-winning streak was ended only in the day’s final test, where water-filled ruts required a slightly more cautious approach, but he conceded only 0.7s of his advantage and leads Neuville by 32.1s overnight as he looks to close out a second Rally Finland win in three years.

It was team-mate Takamoto Katsuta who impressively set the pace in the day’s tricky Vekkula finale, a time that allowed him to move back up into third position overall by 6.4s over Teemu Suninen (Hyundai). A spin in the slippery conditions in SS12 had caused Katsuta to lose around 15s and drop behind Suninen, but he reacted well to this setback to close back in before snatching the position in style in SS18.

Championship leader Kalle Rovanperä was unfortunately not able to rejoin his team-mates in action today following his roll on Friday. The team attempted to repair his car last night but discovered chassis damage that could not be repaired during the event and had to retire the car.

Jari-Matti Latvala remains in fifth position overall on his comeback behind the wheel in the WRC – he and co-driver Juho Hänninen delighting fans with their enjoyment aboard their GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID.

Akio Toyoda (TGR-WRT Chairman)

“Today we saw an amazing drive from Elfyn. Unfortunately, Kalle could not restart this morning, but Elfyn’s great driving today really boosted the energy in the team. Here at Rally Finland, we can see that he is feeling confident driving the car and driving these roads. The more he drives, the more confident he is and the more he is enjoying his driving, and I am very happy to see this. Taka was fighting really hard today, especially on the final stage, where he said that his good friend Kalle had been giving him advice for driving in the slippery conditions. I am really proud that our drivers are helping and supporting each other. Watching Jari-Matti’s interviews at the end of stages, he is always speaking a lot but I can forgive him this because he is enjoying his rally. And when I see his smile, I am enjoying it too.”

Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)
“The feeling’s been good today and the car has been working well. We’ve had the confidence to push and also been able to focus on driving cleanly where necessary. Conditions were difficult at times, especially in the last stage, but we seemed to have everything under control and we’re obviously happy to be in this position tonight. We had some incredible stages today, some of the best in the world, and to have a car that’s working as we want in those conditions has been mega and reminds me of the feeling we had here in 2021. But there is still some distance to go tomorrow and we’re focused on what we need to do to bring the car home in this position.”

Takamoto Katsuta (Driver car 18)
“This morning was tricky as it was still raining quite a lot. In the first stage I was struggling to judge the grip, and then in the second one I was trying to drive better but I made a small mistake that cost us a lot of time. After that, I was trying to fight back but the time gaps were very close and we were only gaining a few tenths of a second on each stage. But we knew the last stage could have difficult conditions so I decided to push as much as I can. Of course there was risk but I knew it could put us in a better position for tomorrow if we could make some time, and luckily we could. Tomorrow will still be a big challenge but I will try my best.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (Driver car 97)
“It has been good fun again today. It’s always nice to go to these stages around Jämsä which are wide, fast and flowing with usually a lot of people spectating, and the atmosphere was really nice. The conditions were a bit challenging with a lot of rain, but it was still enjoyable most of the time. The last stage of the day was more like Safari, with big ruts full of water and a lot of mud coming to the windscreen. But it has been great to see so many people cheering for us on the stages and telling us that we’re doing well. The boost I’m getting from them is giving me an amazing feeling and I hope to carry that until the finish tomorrow.”

End of day three (Saturday):
1 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) 2h08m07.0s
2 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +32.1s
3 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +1m27.8s
4 Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +1m34.2s
5 Jari-Matti Latvala/Juho Hänninen (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +3m39.5s
6 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +8m05.0s
7 Sami Pajari/Enni Mälkönen (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +8m17.5s
8 Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (Ford Fiesta Rally2) +8m51.4s
9 Nikolay Gryazin/Konstantin Aleksandrov (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +9m42.7s
10 Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +10m02.6s
(Results as of 19:30 on Saturday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)

What's next?
The final day of Rally Finland has a new look for this year. Moksi-Sahloinen is driven in the opposite direction to previous years and is run twice together with a new Power Stage ending at the Himos ski resort, which also hosts the podium ceremony.

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)