Bottas claims stage win, finishes fifth on rallying debut in Fiesta

Mercedes Formula 1 driver Valtteri Bottas claimed a stage win on his rallying debut in Finland, finishing fifth overall on the Arctic Lapland Rally driving a Ford Fiesta WRC

Bottas, driving a car similar in spec to those currently being driven by M-Sport's World Rally Championship drivers, was competing against Finnish championship drivers, who were in less powerful R5-specification machinery used in the world championship's WRC2 support category.

After a slow start - Bottas set only the seventh- and ninth-fastest times on the opening two stages of the event - he had climbed to fifth place by Friday afternoon, a position he would hold until the finish.

Bottas was also able to claim a stage win on the short 2.17-mile Mantyvaara test, edging out Finnish championship regular Henrik Pietarinen by 2.3s.

He spent much of the rally chasing Skoda Fabia driver Pietarinen for fourth place but his challenge faded on the final two stages, both of which were won by Pietarinen.

Bottas was co-driven by Marcus Gronholm's long-time navigator Timo Rautiainen, with whom Gronholm claimed his WRC titles in 2000 and '02.

Gronholm's son Niclas, who has spent the last three seasons competing in World Rallycross, was also competing on a rally with a co-driver for the first time, driving a Skoda Fabia for the Printsport team that previously ran Citroen WRC driver Esapekka Lappi in the world championship's SWRC support category in 2012.

He was forced to retire with a technical issue on the first day but charged back from 68th to 17th under Rally2 rules after Saturday's five stages.

Former Ferrari F1 driver Mika Salo was also competing in an identical Printsport Fabia, recovering from 43rd place after stage one to finish 11th.

The rally was won by Emil Lindholm, the son of former Peugeot factory driver Sebastian, driving a Volkswagen Polo GTI R5.

Picture courtesy of Taneli Niinimaki / AKK

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