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WRC Arctic Rally: Tanak seals victory, Rovanpera takes championship lead

Hyundai's Ott Tanak claimed victory on the Arctic Rally to kickstart his 2021 World Rally Championship campaign, beating Kalle Rovanpera who becomes the youngest-ever leader of the drivers' championship

The final day consisted of two passes through the 22.47km Aittajarvi stage and Toyota managed a 1-2 result on its morning run as Elfyn Evans claimed his second stage win of the event from Rovanpera, with the Hyundai of Thierry Neuville just 0.1s behind in third.

The battle between Rovanpera and Neuville for second place on the rally would also determine the provisional championship lead.

Points leader coming into the Lapland-based rally was defending title holder Sebastien Ogier, who had battled an unfavourable road position throughout the event, restarted on Sunday after crashing out at the flying finish of Saturday's final stage.

The Frenchman's only objective was to rescue some points from the Power stage and he duly treated the world to a textbook performance on the ragged edge.

Ogier's time was almost 11 seconds faster than his morning run, but this provisional fastest time was a fragile thing at which the rest of the field took aim.

The first to challenge Ogier's time was teenager Oliver Solberg in his first appearance at the wheel of a pukka WRC car for Hyundai.

Solberg threw everything at the wall - literally - and pinballing between the snow banks and almost inevitably he ended up going off and dropping 15 seconds.

Evans was next through and he fell short of matching Ogier's pace but then Irishman Craig Breen put on a display of fantastically controlled aggression for Hyundai to set a new benchmark, 1.5s faster than the Frenchman.

Breen had been frustrated in his first WRC outing since finishing second on last year's Rally Estonia, and he survived a scare early in the day after the team was forced to take out and replace his gearbox in order to cure an overnight oil leak.

The engineers delivered the repair with just seconds to spare and Breen's increase in tempo on Sunday was impressive - although it inadvertently put a spanner in the works for team-mate Neuville in his battle with Rovanpera.

In the end, Neuville was short of Breen's time by 0.1s and then Rovanpera sliced across the finish line fastest of all, beating Breen by 0.2s to secure the championship lead.

In contrast, rally leader Tanak took a more measured approach to set the fourth fastest time through the stage, adding two bonus points to the 25 that he won for the event overall.

"You know first when you come to a new event you never know what to expect," Tanak said.

"This weekend we came to Finland, kind of home country of Toyota and I mean also Rovanpera was expected to be very strong so the pressure was there for sure and then we knew it's going to be very complicated to take the fight but in the end I think we did a very good weekend... just enough and nothing too much."

Having failed to score on the opening round in Monte Carlo, the 27 points that Tanak took away from the Arctic Rally boost him back into fifth in the drivers' championship standings and helped to halve Hyundai's deficit to Toyota in the manufacturers' points.

New championship leader Rovanpera expressed satisfaction with the result, albeit tinged with frustration after struggling with his set-up earlier in the rally.

"This weekend I wanted to fight for the top place and I made a mistake and it was not in the optimum pace," he said.

"But I have to say I was pushing the whole weekend, maximum all the time, I think it was a good weekend from my side."

Before the prizegiving, a minute's silence was held in memory of 1983 world champion Hannu Mikkola, with an F-18 Hornet from the Finnish Air Force flying overhead in an emotional tribute led by his former co-driver, FIA president Jean Todt, and his former team-mate, FIA Women in Motorsport president Michele Mouton.

In WRC2, Esapekka Lappi completed his dominant return to competition with victory.

Not only did he remind the world of his fierce competitiveness as a driver but also just how good Volkswagen's now-abandoned rally cars are.

It was, relatively speaking, a disaster for Andreas Mikkelsen after his bullish start to the season in Monte Carlo. Mikkelsen came out of the gates of his WRC2 campaign in Monte Carlo declaring that intended to dominate each event to prove his worthiness of a top WRC car in 2022.

Russian driver Nikolay Gryazin rounded out the podium in his privately entered VW, satisfied to be showing his former team-mates at Hyundai a clean pair of heels for the second rally in succession.

In WRC3, Finnish driver Teemu Asunmaa and his Estonian rival Egon Kaur held station in the top two positions, as they had throughout the rally, with another Finn, Mikko Heikkila, completing the podium.

WRC Arctic Rally results

Pos Class Driver Car Gap
1 RC1 Ott Tanak, M.Jarveoja Hyundai 2h03m49.6s
2 RC1 Kalle Rovanpera, J.Halttunen Toyota 17.5s
3 RC1 Thierry Neuville, M.Wydaeghe Hyundai 19.8s
4 RC1 Craig Breen, P.Nagle Hyundai 52.6s
5 RC1 Elfyn Evans, S.Martin Toyota 1m01.5s
6 RC1 Takamoto Katsuta, D.Barritt Toyota 1m37.8s
7 RC1 Oliver Solberg, S.Marshall Hyundai 1m39.0s
8 RC1 Teemu Suninen, M.Markkula Ford 2m09.0s
9 RC1 Gus Greensmith, E.Edmondson Ford 3m39.4s
10 WRC2 Esapekka Lappi, J.Ferm Volkswagen 6m07.0s
11 WRC2 Andreas Mikkelsen, O.Floene Skoda 6m54.7s
12 WRC2 Nikolay Gryazin, K.Aleksandrov Volkswagen 7m37.3s
13 WRC3 Teemu Asunmaa, M.Salminen Skoda 8m05.7s
14 WRC3 Egon Kaur, S.Simm Volkswagen 8m09.9s
15 WRC2 Eyvind Brynildsen, V.Engan Skoda 8m51.9s
16 WRC2 Ole-Christian Veiby, J.Andersson Hyundai 9m01.2s
17 WRC3 Mikko Heikkila, T.Luhtinen Skoda 9m44.3s
18 WRC3 Eerik Pietarinen, A.Linnaketo Skoda 9m51.0s
19 WRC3 Mattias Ekstrom, E.Bergkvist Skoda 10m39.6s
20 RC1 Sebastien Ogier, J.Ingrassia Toyota 11m06.2s
21 WRC2 Martin Prokop, V.Chytka Ford 13m07.1s
22 WRC3 Gregor Jeets, K.Pannas Skoda 14m23.2s
23 RC2 Ville Hanhisuanto, M.Toppinen Ford 16m16.3s
24 WRC3 Pekka Keski-Korsu, M.Silfvast Skoda 16m56.1s
25 WRC3 Tuomas Skantz, K.Kallio Skoda 17m03.9s
26 WRC3 Michal Solowow, M.Baran Citroen 17m04.7s
27 WRC3 Johan Kristoffersson, P.Barth Volkswagen 18m35.0s
28 RC4 Sami Pajari, E.Malkonen Ford 19m05.0s
29 WRC3 Rakan Al-Rashed, H.Magalhaes Volkswagen 19m48.2s
30 WRC2 Sean Johnston, A.Kihurani Citroen 20m40.5s
31 RC4 Lauri Joona, A.Koponen Ford 21m51.6s
32 WRC3 Adrian Chwietczuk, J.Baran Skoda 22m23.8s
33 WRC3 Fabrizio Zaldivar, C.del Barrio Skoda 23m06.3s
34 WRC3 Jussi Keskiniva, M.Kaikkonen Skoda 23m44.2s
35 WRC3 Marko Viitanen, T.Suominen Skoda 24m10.8s
36 WRC3 Lars Stugemo, K-O.Lexe Skoda 24m31.7s
37 WRC2 Georg Linnamae, V.Korsya Volkswagen 28m04.8s
38 WRC3 Ville Ruokanen, T.Pallari Skoda 28m47.6s
39 RC1 Pierre-Louis Loubet, V.Landais Hyundai 30m01.0s
40 WRC3 Vladas Jurkevicius, A.Paliukenas Skoda 30m57.2s
41 RC4 Toni Herranen, S.Virtanen Ford 32m14.7s
42 RC4 Teemu Kortesalmi, S.Kuruaho Ford 32m27.6s
43 WRC3 Ari-Pekka Koivisto, J.Karpijoki Skoda 33m46.2s
44 RC2 Luca Hoelbling, F.Fiorini Hyundai 34m54.4s
45 RC2 Bertrand Pierrat, A.Chevalier Hyundai 35m16.4s
46 RC2 Mika Karppanen, A.Heinonen Citroen 37m18.5s
47 WRC3 Miguel Diaz-Aboitiz, D.Sanjuan Skoda 39m36.1s
48 WRC2 Adrien Fourmaux, R.Jamoul Ford 43m28.2s
49 WRC3 Mauro Miele, L.Beltrame Skoda 47m57.8s
50 RC2 Pieter Cracco, J.Vermeulen Skoda 51m17.4s
51 RC1 Lorenzo Bertelli, S.Scattolin Ford 1h02m53.9s
52 WRC3 Albert von Thurn und Taxis, B.Ettel Skoda 1h12m04.6s

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