Evans remains out in front at drama-filled Rally Finland

Elfyn Evans kept a resurgent Ott Tanak at arm’s length during this afternoon's loop at Secto Rally Finland to complete the event's penultimate leg with a 9.1 second lead.
Evans remains out in front at drama-filled Rally Finland

Having trailed overnight leader Craig Breen by 6.1 seconds, Evans wasted no time in moving to the top of the timesheets this morning, with that coming on the first run through ‘Paijala’.

A further two scratch times before midday service made it a clean sweep and put more daylight between him and Breen.

The Welshman was unable to repeat his scintillating form second time over the stages, but it mattered little as his risk-free approach kept his hopes of a victory on Sunday very much alive.

“It has been a good day to be honest,” said Evans, who is aiming to become the first British driver since Kris Meeke in 2016 to finish on the top step of the podium here.

“It has been a great fight but obviously there is still a long way to go tomorrow, so we will just take it stage by stage.”

Tanak – who himself led the rally on Friday for a brief period – was visibly satisfied with his afternoon’s work.

He went fastest on four of the five stages and will look to carry that new-found momentum into Sunday. “It has been quite good fun actually,” said the 2019 champion.

“For sure, we have been pushing quite a bit and everything is now working well with the car. It is good to be on the pace with Hyundai in Finland.”

As the miles wore on today, though, Breen struggled to maintain his strong early pace - a fact that wasn't helped when he clipped a bale near the beginning of stage 11 and damaged one of the front bumper's dive planes.

Coupled with conditions more suited to Tanak that meant he had the confidence required to really attack the fastest roads in the World Rally Championship, he was powerless to hold station in second place.

“When it [a victory] is in your hands and it starts to go away it is disappointing – but we have to be realistic,” said the Irishman.

“For the third time in a row we have the lead and we are so, so close but, for whatever reason, we just can’t put it together.

“But just to be amongst the top people here in Finland is really special but it hurts a little bit just not being able to get that last bit.”

Esapekka Lappi was a non-mover all day and remains in fourth, while Sebastien Ogier was promoted up to fifth following the retirement of Hyundai's Thierry Neuville on stage 14 with mechanical failure - a setback that all but ends the Belgian's already slim hopes of challenging for the drivers' title this season.

The M-Sport Ford pairing of Gus Greensmith and Adrien Fourmaux are provisonally sixth and seventh, with their former team-mate Teemu Suninen - the current leader of the WRC2 division with Mikko Markkula - eighth.

Rally Finland concludes tomorrow with four stages, including the end-of-rally Power Stage where five bonus points will be available to the crew that sets the benchmark time.

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