Evans wins Rally Finland from the front

By scoring five stage wins back-to-back Friday night and Saturday morning, Elfyn Evans jumped from fifth to first on the leaderboard, then survived intense pressure from Ott Tänak and Craig Breen for the rest of the rally to win For Toyota by 14.1sec. Evans knew that only a victory would suffice to keep his title hopes alive and with maximum points for winning the closing Wolf Power Stage, the Welshman slashed championship leader Sébastien Ogier's advantage from 44 points to 24 with two rounds remaining.

The Toyota Gazoo Racing team is based near the host city of Jyväskylä and its unbeaten Rally Finland record since returning to the WRC in 2017 was safely retained for another year and Toyota also increased its lead to 61 points in the manufacturers' championship over Hyundai Motorsport.

Autumnal colours augmented the Finnish forests and the championship's fastest rally provided tremendous action, with Tänak and Breen both leading on the opening day, locked in a furious battle in their Hyundai i20s. But they had no answer to Elfyn Evans' pace and set-up changes midway through Saturday gave Tänak more confidence, so much so that he eased clear of teammate Breen to finish 28.1sec ahead. But despite overshooting a junction on Sunday morning, the Irishman bagged his third podium from his last three outings and matched his 2016 result.

After 10-months away, Esapekka Lappi - winner in 2017 - made a remarkable return to top-level competition in a privately entered Toyota Yaris, the Finn being in the thick of the podium battle during the opening leg and eventually finished fourth, 16.6sec behind Breen. Championship leader Ogier ended fifth after a lackluster drive in his Yaris. He never had the pace to match the leading quartet and a disappointing weekend was made worse when he was hit with a 60sec penalty on Saturday night for not fastening his crash helmet strap correctly earlier in the day.

Gus Greensmith completed the top six in a Ford Fiesta, the Briton heading team-mate Adrien Fourmaux. WRC2 winner Teemu Suninen was eighth ahead of fellow support category driver Mads Østberg, with WRC3 winner Emil Lindholm completing the leaderboard.

At the end of the event Elfyn Evans truly believed his overall win on Rally Finland ranks as ?probably the highest? of his World Rally Championship career to date.

The WRC returns to asphalt for the penultimate round at RallyRACC Rally de España on 14 - 17 October, based in Salou.

4th October, 2021