Secto Rally Finland - Evans Leading

Elfyn Evans is the overnight leader of Secto Rally Finland after his team-mate Kalle Rovanperä's winning streak came to an abrupt halt during Friday's opening leg. Rovanperä had carried a commanding 55-point lead into this ninth FIA World Rally Championship round and then reeled off five consecutive benchmark times in a Toyota GR Yaris to head chasing Welshman Evans by 5.7sec approaching the day?s seventh stage in Myhinpää.

But a rare mistake 11.1km after the start brought a disastrous end to the defending world champion's day when he lost control of his GR Yaris and rolled end-over-end. Rovanperä and co-driver Jonne Halttunen emerged from the wreckage unscathed despite the force of the impact being strong enough to tear a rear wheel from the car.

Evans, currently second in the championship points table, inherited the lead from his stranded team-mate and negotiated the remaining two stages error-free to head Hyundai's Thierry Neuville by a slender 6.9sec overnight. Mistakes are usually punished brutally on central Finland's superfast gravel roads and Rovanperä wasn't the only driver to come unstuck. His Hyundai-driving compatriot Esapekka Lappi crashed into a tree in SS4 whilst running fourth overall.

Ott Tänak, leader after Thursday's evening's super special stage in Jyväskylä city centre, had retired his Puma in SS3 with terminal engine failure and his M-Sport Ford partner Pierre-Louis Loubet crashed out in the same test. Neuville's day wasn't without drama, either, the Belgian reporting a lack of rear traction early in the day and struggling for visibility under scattered rain showers on multiple occasions. But he headed Toyota's Takamoto Katsuta, who won the opening stage, by 9.5sec at close of play.

In fourth overall and within reach of the podium is Teemu Suninen, contesting his second rally aboard an i20 N Rally1 and trailing Katsuta by 12.4sec after building his speed throughout the day. Remarkably, popular Toyota team principal Jari-Matti Latvala rounded out the top five on his first WRC start since 2020. Behind him was Jari Huttunen, who led WRC2 in a Skoda Fabia RS Rally2 after leapfrogging Sami Pajari when the youngster suffered tyre damage in the penultimate stage. Nikolay Gryazin, Oliver Solberg and Adrien Fourmaux complete the top 10. Saturday will now provide the rally's longest leg with eight special stages totaling 160.68km.

4th August, 2023