Rally Finland, or The Rally of the Thousand Lakes, is now underway on the roads around Jyväskylä in central Finland.  In this article, we will offer you the latest news and results from the rally. Keep watching us, so you never miss anything important!

Day 1 (26thJuly)

Shakedown

The first day of The Rally of the Thousand Lakes set off with shakedown, which started at 9 A.M. and took racers on 4.26 kilometres long route on forest roads near Vesala. Right from the beginning, both crews of the ŠKODA Motorsport works team made it clear that they are well-prepared and ready to excel in Finland.

While Finnish youngster Kalle Rovanperä with his co-driver Jonne Halttunen was faster in the beginning and dominated the first two runs, his Norwegian colleague O.C. Veiby, accompanied by Stig Rune Skjærmoen on the right seat, did manage to do even better in the third run and won the shakedown with time of 2:02.9.

Right behind them, Erik Pietarinen with co-driver Juhana Raitanen, driving a FABIA R5 entered by TGS Worldwide, came in third, completing the 1-2-3 result.

Special Stage 1

In the evening of the first day, it was time to start the rally for real. The first special stage was the first run of famous Harju, a short run in the Jyväskylä city centre, taking the cars around the football stadium and on some of the city’s main roads.

This time, Kalle encountered a bit of a bad luck, having run in the first batch of WRC 2 cars, ahead of the more powerful WRC machines. At the time, the roads were still quite wet after rain, which forced him to slow down and he eventually took 8thplace.

“It is a shame that it was raining. It was very slippery so I just kept it safe”, concluded Rovanperä.

When it was time for the rest of the WRC 2 class to go, the roads were much drier, which allowed for more pace. Four FABIA R5s were leading the field. Fabio Andolfi with co-driver Emanuele Inglesi, driving a car entered by ACI Team Italia, took the first place, followed by O.C. Veiby in 2nd, Emil Lindholm with Mikael Korhonen from Printsport Oy in the 3rdplace and, once again, Erik Pietarinen in fourth.

Day 2 (Friday, 27thJuly)

Stages 1 – 5 (Morning)

On Friday morning, the real action started on the gravel roads in the Finnish forests and ŠKODA works crew begun to shine right away. In the Special Stage 2, over 20 kilometres in length, Kalle Rovanperä set an impressive time of 10:25.5, more than 8 seconds ahead of his teammate O.C. Veiby in the second place and over 13 seconds in front of Eerik Pietarinen, driving a FABIA R5 entered by TGS Worldwide, in the 3rd.

In the two following two stages, Kalle once again set the best times and only in the SS5, the last one before mid-day service, was he overtaken by Eerik Pietarinen, who is now in the second place in the overall WRC 2 standings, just 1.3 seconds ahead of O.C. Veiby in the third.

For O.C. Veiby, the morning run was made harder by the fact that as the first WRC 2 car on the track, he encountered more debris than those behind him. Even so, he never finished a stage worse than 4thand is now in the 3rdposition overall. Here’s what he has to say:

 “I did a small mistake on the third stage which cost me some time. On the fourth one, I hit a stone and the car didn’t feel so nice to handle afterwards. I am the first WRC 2 car on the road and because of the different width of the track compared to the WRC cars, that meant a little bit of road cleaning for me. I am sure, on the second pass of the stages it will be a lot easier for me.”

His teammate Kalle Rovanperä, who is leading with more than 14 second gap to Eerik Pietarinen in the 2ndplace, was happy: “No problems with the car at all, I had a steady drive on the first loop.”

Stages 6 – 11 (Afternoon)

After the midday break, O.C. Veiby had a big “moment” in the sixth stage of the rally. “After a fast right hander, I went a little wide and hit a bank,” said Veiby about his close call. The shunt resulted in cracked left rear wheel, but Veiby still managed to move up to the second position in the WRC 2 class. Another consequence of the off-road excursion was broken brake disk on the rear-left side, which had to be removed, meaning that O.C. had to continue with braking power limited to just three wheels. Even so, he was able to finish the Friday leg in fourth position and can still fight for a podium position.

Kalle Rovanperä was the second quickest the SS6, having to drive in the dust behind Benito Guerra, who he finally caught up with in the finish. The 17 years old Finn managed, with his co-driver Jonne Halttunen, to utterly dominate the WRC 2 category throughout the afternoon set of stages, winning four of the six stages.

Eerik Pietarinen, driving a private FABIA R5 fielded by TGS Worldwide, also delivered a remarkable performance, holding on to the second position.

ŠKODA Motorsport boss Michal Hrabánek was impressed by Rovanperä’s performance: “Kalle and Jonne delivered a very fast and faultless performance. O.C. was very lucky to escape from the incident. He proved that our ŠKODA FABIA R5 is so reliable and strong, that you can even reach the finish with only three brakes working,” concluded Hrabánek.

Saturday will be the longest day of the Rally Finland, with eight special stages covering nearly 143 kilometres. Sunday will bring the final decision with four stages, before the winner will reach the podium in Jyväskylä around 16:00 local time.

Standings Rally Finland after Day 2 (WRC 2)

  1. Rovanperä/Halttunen (FIN/FIN), ŠKODA FABIA R5, 1:07:47.7 h
  2. Pietarinen/Raitanen (FIN/FIN), ŠKODA FABIA R5, +32.0 sec.
  3. Huttunen/Linnaketo, (FIN/FIN), Hyundai i20, +57.5 sec.
  4. Veiby/Skjaermœn (NOR/NOR), ŠKODA FABIA R5, +1:02.8 min.
  5. Greensmith/Parry (GBR/GBR), Ford Fiesta R5, +2:02.6 min.
  6. Ciamin/de la Haye (FRA/FRA), Hyundai i20, +3:14.2 min.

Number of the day: 7

Out of the ten stages during the Friday leg of NESTE Rally Finland, Kalle Rovanperä won seven.

Day 3 (Saturday, 28thJuly)

Stages 12 – 15 (Morning)

The longest day of the Rally Finland (with eight stages totalling nearly 143 km) was also the hottest, with temperatures in the Finnish forests climbing once again above 30 degrees.

Kalle Rovanperä with co-driver Jonne Halttunen continued the rally in the same style as the day before: they started out on the top, setting the first best time of the day. ŠKODA privateers Eerik Pietarinen/Juhana Raitanen also continued their brilliant performance and even set the best time in the second stage of the day.

That was, of course, something Kalle couldn’t tolerate and he fought back on the famous Kakaristo stage, which came as the third one of the day.

“The first stage in the morning was quite okay, the second one I was probably too cautious.  Afterwards, I tried to drive like normal”, commented Kalle Rovanperä and we saw what “normal” meant: He was 7.3 seconds quicker than anyone else in the WRC 2 category.  After another fastest time, he brought his ŠKODA FABIA R5 back to the midday service in Jyväskylä with a solid 49.4 seconds lead.

His teammates Ole Christian Veiby and Stig Rune Skjaermœn began the Saturday morning with a clear mission. To try and get back on the podium after the off-road excursion on Friday.

“I want to go back on the podium, maybe second place is still possible.”, said Veiby about his ambitions for the day.

After the damage to his FABIA R5 was repaired overnight by ŠKODA mechanics, he managed to reduce the gap to the third place to 1.6 seconds in the first stage of the morning run. However, Hyundai driver Jari Huttunen was unwilling to give his position and fought

back on the next stage, enlarging the gap up to 3.8 seconds again. On the next one Veiby was again 2.2 seconds quicker, so there was once again 1.6 seconds gap between the two drivers. For the afternoon leg, this fight promises to be really hot again.

Stages 16 – 19 (Afternoon)

The Saturday afternoon brought repetition of the morning stages, taking crews on another 71 kilometres under the unusually hot Finnish sun. In the beginning, things looked promising, with O.C. Veiby finally moving up to the third place in WRC 2 category and Kalle Rovanperä staying comfortably in the lead.

Then, in the third stage of the afternoon, SS18 Päijälä, the team’s luck run out. First, Kalle hit a rock hidden in deep ruts while braking and his left front suspension collapsed. He didn’t give up, though. With co-driver Jonne Halttunen, he successfully completed an emergency roadside repair and managed not only to finish the stage, but also to complete the final stage of the day (SS19). At the end of the day, he is still in the game, holding 4thposition.

„I think this is sisu, I just hope we didn’t disrupt the cars behind, we asked for extra time but hopefully it didn’t affect them“, commented Kalle, using the Finnish word that describes the typical Finnish grit and resilience when the success is against all odds.

His teammate O.C. Veiby was even less lucky. After going off the road in the same stage, he had to retire from the rally.

Eerik Pietarinen and his co-driver Juhana Raitanen, driving a FABIA R5 fielded by TGS Worldwide, continued their great performance and are now leading the overall standings of WRC 2 class.

ŠKODA Motorsport boss Michal Hrabánek commented: “That’s rallying. Kalle and Jonne delivered so far a faultless drive and they really would have deserved to win their home event! O.C. and Stig Rune had bad luck as well going off the road in the same stage. Now we keep our fingers crossed for our local ŠKODA customer team Eerik Pietarinen/Juhana Raitanen for the victory.”

Standings NESTE Rally Finland after Day 3 (WRC 2)

  1. Pietarinen/Raitanen (FIN/FIN), ŠKODA FABIA R5, 2:21:57. h
  2. Huttunen/Linnaketo, (FIN/FIN), Hyundai i20, +53.0 sec.
  3. Greensmith/Parry (GBR/GBR), Ford Fiesta R5, +2:25.5 min.
  4. Rovanperä/Halttunen (FIN/FIN), ŠKODA FABIA R5, +3:11.5 min.
  5. Loubet/Landais (FRA/FRA), Hyundai i20, +3:43.3 min.

 

Number of the day: 18

Disaster hit both ŠKODA junior crews in stage number 18 of NESTE Rally Finland: Kalle Rovanperä broke the suspension, teammate O.C. Veiby went off the road.

Day 4 (Sunday, 29thJuly)

Stages 20 – 23

During the Sunday leg of NESTE Rally Finland, ŠKODA customer crew Eerik Pietarinen/Juhana Raitanen controlled their lead in the WRC 2 category up to the finish line in Jyväskylä. After the final four stages, totalling around 46 kilometres, the locals celebrated the most important victory of their career so far.

After the suspension damage on his ŠKODA FABIA R5 had been successfully repaired at the evening service on Saturday, Kalle Rovanperä started his attack at podium position on Sunday morning. On the first special stage of the day alone, he gained 15.2 seconds in 11 kilometres and reduced the gap to the third placed Ford driver Gus Greensmith to 30.8 seconds. On the next stage, Rovanperä was quickest again, closing the gap to 24.5 seconds, but afterwards confessed: “I think the gap is a little bit too big. But still a lot can happen.” Another fastest time brought him another 13.1 seconds closer to the podium. But even the fourth best time of the day during the last stage was not enough – in the end only 1.9 seconds separated Rovanperä from third place in the WRC 2 category!

While Kalle Rovanperä and co-driver Jonne Halttunen set all fastest WRC 2 times on Sunday’s stages, local ŠKODA privateers and current Finnish Championship leaders Eerik Pietarinen/Juhana Raitanen (FIN/FIN) won the category – the biggest success of their career so far.

Final results NESTE Rally Finland (WRC 2)

  1. Pietarinen/Raitanen (FIN/FIN), ŠKODA FABIA R5, 2:45:18.4 h
  2. Huttunen/Linnaketo, (FIN/FIN), Hyundai i20, +1:06.8 min.
  3. Greensmith/Parry (GBR/GBR), Ford Fiesta R5, +2:34.9 min.
  4. Rovanperä/Halttunen (FIN/FIN), ŠKODA FABIA R5, +2:36.8 min.
  5. Loubet/Landais (FRA/FRA), Hyundai i20, +4:05.0 min

Championship standings WRC 2 (after 8 of 13 rounds)

  1. Tidemand (SWE), ŠKODA, 93 points
  2. Kopecký (CZE) ŠKODA, 75 points
  3. Greensmith (GBR), Ford, 55 points
  4. Veiby (NOR), ŠKODA, 45 points

 

Number of the day: 7

ŠKODA crews so far won the WRC 2 category at seven out of eight rounds of the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship.

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