Sour objective was clear: “at least to win”. Estonian Ott Tänak (Hyundai) won the Arctic Rally, the second round of the WRC World Championship held behind closed doors in Finland on Sunday, ahead of 20-year-old Finnish Kalle Rovanperä, who becomes the youngest driver to take charge of the standings of the World Cup. The 2019 world champion, forced to retire in Monte-Carlo at the end of January, took his revenge and dominated this unprecedented round from start to finish through the snowy forests of Lapland, signing half the time scratch. “We came to Finland, the country where our closest rivals are based. [Toyota, NDLR], so the pressure was there […], but in the end we had a very good weekend, ”said Tänak.
Rovanperä prend la 2e place, and the head of the championship at only 20 years old
His Hyundai teammate, Thierry Neuville, fighting to the end with Rovanperä for second place, completed the podium. “We believed in it until the end, but everyone put the package on the Power Stage, so it was not possible to take second place”, commented the Belgian, still satisfied with to have taken “some good points”. Local of the stage, Rovanperä (Toyota) had set the scene before the race: “I want to be on the podium at the end of the weekend and I hope we can also fight for first place. “If he has never managed to overtake Tänak, the young driver says he is” happy with the points obtained “and records at home the best result of his career, better than his 3e place at the rally of Sweden in February 2020. The Finn also signs the good operation by seizing the orders of the championship, held until then by the French Sébastien Ogier, his teammate at Toyota, and becomes the youngest driver to occupy the first place in the provisional classification. Rovanperä now has 39 points in the provisional standings of the Drivers’ World Championship, four more than his provisional runner-up Neuville (35 points), and intends to “fight […] on other rallies ”to clinch his first victory.
“Weekend to forget” for Ogier
Ogier, the reigning world champion, left the road at the very end of the last special on Saturday. 200 meters from the finish, he finished his race in a wall of snow. “It’s a weekend to forget,” reacted the French driver, who had already suffered from his position as an opener on the snow-covered Finnish roads on Friday. After offering himself on the 8e Rally Monte-Carlo of his career a month ago, Ogier finished more than 10 minutes from Tänak. He is now in third place in the World Championship standings, tied on points with his teammate Elfyn Evans (31 points).
Hyundai goes back to Toyota
On the constructors’ side, Hyundai has managed to place its three drivers in the top 4. The team goes back to 11 Toyota units, leading with 88 points. “I said after Monte-Carlo that only a victory would have brought us back to where we need to be. I think my team did an amazing job. We understood our faults ”, welcomed Andrea Adamo, boss of the South Korean team.
Minute of silence for Mikkola
This second round of the championship was marked by the announcement on Saturday of the death at the age of 78 of Hannu Mikkola, the Finnish rally legend. A minute of silence was observed before the podium on Sunday, in tribute to the 1983 world champion. Numerous motor sport personalities, such as Jean Todt, the president of the International Automobile Federation (FIA), who had been his co-driver , where world champions Carlos Sainz, Sébastien Ogier and Petter Solberg, paid tribute to him. After this snowy round, which replaced the Rally Sweden canceled due to a pandemic, the championship will continue on gravel with a third round in Croatia, from April 22 to 25.