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Leg report
WRC Rally Finland

WRC Finland: Evans extends lead with victory in sight

Elfyn Evans extended his Rally Finland lead on Sunday morning as the Toyota driver closed in on a second World Rally Championship win of the season.

After winning seven of Saturday’s eight stages, Evans recorded two more stage wins to extend his lead to 38.2s over Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville.

Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta edged Hyundai’s Teemu Suninen to hold third by 6.3s heading into the rally’s final stage this afternoon. Katsuta’s team boss and three-time Finland winner Jari-Matti Latvala maintained fifth overall on his WRC comeback for Toyota.

Crews faced completely dry conditions for the first time this weekend ahead of Sunday morning’s first stage, Moksi-Sahloinen (16.56km), and it was here where Evans extended his already healthy rally lead.

The Welshman admitted he wasn’t “as committed” in the test compared to yesterday given his position, but his pace still yielded his eighth stage win of the event to date.

Evans reached the stage end a second faster than Suninen, who gambled on running lighter without any spare wheels, to take the fight to third-placed Katsuta in the battle for the final podium.

In this stage it appeared to work as the Finn took 1.9s out of his rival to cut the deficit to 4.5s with three stages remaining.

Neuville elected to cruise through the stage to preserve his tyres for the rally ending Power Stage, while Latvala was only 9.4s adrift in a test he claimed was “classic” and one he had been “waiting for” on his WRC comeback.

Latvala was even closer to the current crop of WRC regulars when the crews completed stage 20 (Himos-Jamsa, 9.26km), the first pass through the Power Stage. The Finn was 5.4s shy and only 1.2s slower than rally leader Evans, although the 2021 Finland winner opted for a “steady” run.

All eyes are on the battle for third which took another twist as Katsuta responded by winning the stage, his second fastest time of the rally.

Teemu Suninen, Mikko Markkula, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Teemu Suninen, Mikko Markkula, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

The Japanese was 1.3s faster than Neuville but crucially 2.7s quicker than Suninen, who was fortunate to wrestle his i20 N back from running wide into a ditch at a fast left-hander. Neuville’s effort did briefly bring the gap to Evans back down to 33.7s.

The sole remaining M-Sport-Ford driven by Pierre-Louis Loubet, who rejoined the rally yesterday after Friday’s crash, appeared to be back up to speed in the stage. The Frenchman was forced to run in road mode in the previous test due to an engine issue.

However, the issue seemed to re-emerge as Loubet drove slowly through the morning’s test stage 21 to protect his Puma for the Power Stage. Loubet was 1m41.9s slower than stage winner Evans, who notched up his ninth fastest time.

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Evans was 4.5s faster than Neuville, while Suninen managed to pip Katsuta by 0.9s to set up a grandstand finish in the fight for third.

Oliver Solberg maintained his lead of the WRC2 class in sixth overall ahead of Sami Pajari. Adrien Fourmaux, Nikolay Gryazin and Andreas Mikkelsen completed the top 10 ahead of this afternoon’s final stage.

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