‘A new Vatanen takes home victory’
A Vatanen wins in Finland again. This time it was Ari’s son Max who took the Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy honours in his Ford Fiesta R2T.
Vatanen Jr might not have taken the overall victory his father managed at home in 1981 and three years later in 1984, but Max’s success is the biggest of his career to date – not least because it lands him two DMACK prize drives in an M-sport Fiesta R5 in next year’s WRC2 series.
The younger Vatanen arrived in Jyvaksyla as favourite and delivered with a beautiful and faultless drive. At first he was forced to give best to charging Brit Osian Pryce, the series rookie hunting a second win from three DDFT starts, who led at the end of day one. But when Pryce toppled into the trees on the outside of a tightening right in Paijala, Vatanen was handed a near minute lead he wouldn’t relinquish.
British stars Gus Greensmith and Jon Armstrong both featured early on in the event. The former was slowed by a broken wire on his car’s wastegate, robbing him of boost on Friday afternoon, while Armstrong went second quickest in Jukojarvi, only to roof his Ford on the following Surkee test.
If the local fans were concerned at the lack of frontline Finns in the World Rally Championship, they only needed to look at the premier support series: WRC2, where Esapekka Lappi and Teemu Suninen lined up as favourites. Their fight started a fortnight ago on the Autoglym Ralli, a Rally Finland loosener based near Tampere, south-west of Jyvaskyla. There, Suninen went off on SS2 while Lappi crushed his rivals in a similar fashion to what he managed to do here 12 months ago.
This year, it was more of the same with another masterclass from Lappi who took a 40-second win from Suninen. While Lappi took the laurels, Suninen took control of the WRC2 title race and richly deserves significant credit for his Finland drive. It was only his third start on his home WRC round and his first in a four-wheel drive car.
Pontus Tidemand overcame a steady start on Friday morning to engage in a scrap for second with Suninen, but the Swede’s event turned to disaster when he crashed out on the final stage.
Elfyn Evans’ hopes of WRC2 glory all but disappeared following an electrical glitch on his Ford Fiesta R5. The Welshman posted a string of fastest times to bring the M-sport car back up the leaderboard onto the bottom step of the podium following Tidemand’s shunt.
Ole Christian Veiby won Junior WRC and WRC3 after a classic battle with Simone Tempestini in the DS 3 R3 fight. Juuso Nordgren, the Finnish governing body’s prize drive winner, took third.