The traditionally fast gravel Rally Finland followed the similar Estonian Rally on the calendar. Those who had a good pace in the previous event had a good chance here too. However, the event tested the versatility of the pilots thanks to the rain at the start and rewarded the patient ones in the end. The home crew celebrated its first victory in the WRC2 category, with the Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 cars taking four positions in the top five.

The Finnish crew Sami Pajari/Enni Mälkönen was already very fast in Estonia and then improved their performance on home roads and could therefore celebrate their first victory in the WRC2 category. However, the duo in the Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 of the Toksport WRT team needed a fighting and patient performance to achieve such a success. For example, the drivers were troubled at the start by rain, which threatened aquaplaning on the fast tracks, but nobody but a few wanted to slow down from the fierce pace. This was demonstrated by the Printsport Fabia RS Rally2 crew of Jari Huttunen/Antti Haapala, who completed the famous Lankamaa stage at an average speed of 132.2 km/h.

It was this crew that the Pajari/Mälkönen duo had been battling with from the start, and Pajari usually had the upper hand over his rivals on Friday. However, he suffered a slow puncture on the ninth special stage, which cost him about ten seconds of time and by the end of the day Jari Huttunen had a 12.9 second lead. Other crews also had problems, with the Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen duo dealing with a shock absorber issue and finishing fifth after the first day.

On Saturday, the battle at the front continued and after the morning tests the difference between the top two cars was only 1.3 seconds, while the rivals in third place were already over 30 seconds behind. However, it was the leading Huttunen/Haapala crew that had a good portion of bad luck right at the start of the afternoon when a technical fault took them out of the rally. After an unfortunate stone hit, another crew with a Fabia RS Rally2, the duo Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson, also had to withdraw.

These events showed that patience pays off in the otherwise extremely fast Rally Finland. The Pajari/Mälkönen duo certainly demonstrated this, and on Sunday the duo was more or less driving on the safe side, guarding that roughly half-minute lead over their rivals in second place. Patience also paid off for the Mikkelsen/Eriksen pairing, who were trying out a new set-up for their Fabia RS Rally2 for this rally. And as the crew admitted after the event, it wasn't a good choice. Despite this, the duo climbed to a final fourth position in the WRC2 category, which saw them climb to the top of the overall standings in this category. They were then joined in the top five in Finland by two more Škoda crews: Nikolay Gryazin and Konstantin Aleksandrov came in third place with more than a minute behind the winner, while the Finnish crew of Mikko Heikkilä/Samu Vaaleri was fifth.

However, the success of the Škoda Fabia RS Rally 2 crews in this rally is far from over. Apart from WRC2 category winner Pajari (21 years old), Oliver Solberg was another youngster who proved his speed in the Rally Finland. In fact, he was one of the fastest drivers throughout the rally, winning seven stages in the RC2 class with co-driver Elliott Edmondson, which helped him to the fastest time in the class and sixth place overall. What a shame Solberg didn't nominate Finland as one of his WRC2 category points events.


More information about the Rally Finland can be found in the press release.