The second half of the World Rally Championships kicked off on one of the biggest and fastest rounds of the season. For full report Click Here. Lets take a look back at the high flyers and the forest flingers from this years edition of Rally Finland.
Driver of the Rally: Mads Ostberg
This was a tough one to call. So many drivers put in some truly incredible performances. So much so, that we almost forgot about the title fighters at the bottom end of the results sheet.
But the Driver of Rally Finland has to go to Mads Ostberg. With very little seat time. He was thrown in at the deep end when Citroen took him on to replace Kris Meeke for the second half of the season. Having only expected to do a very small number of Rallies. Led the rally a number of times on Friday. The battle between himself and Ott Tanak was intense. Taking each others pace to an untouchable distance from the rest of the pack. This man is back and with a car that he now seems to be happy with. He will be one to watch out for in the rest of the season. Ostberg’s Second place was possibly one of the most important and much needed results for Citroen.
Survivor of the Rally: Kalle Rovanpera
Many events are often a battle for survival for most of the field. Being fast when everything works is one thing. But if you want to be a real driver, then it’s about how you hold your composure when things go wrong.
This award definitely goes to the fast rising star, Kalle Rovanpera. Held an untouchable lead until the penultimate stage on Saturday, when his car hit a ‘seemingly nothing’ rock. The front left top mount on his Skoda Fabia gave way and his spring had sprung. With time leaking away, Rovanpera dragged his Fabia to the end. He may have been quick to tweet that his rally was over. But along with his more experienced co-driver. They made a creative fix – Used a steering arm in replacement of the suspension. It was just enough to bring the car home. His 4th result was not deserving of his amazing pace, but showed his desire to never give up.
Forest Flinger: Esapekka Lappi
Finland is the sort of place that rewards commitment and speed. But make the smallest of mistakes and you learn a big, hard hitting lesson. There were several large smashes as always on Rally finland. But the most painful one was perhaps the one of last years winner & local star Esapekka Lappi. His rally was put on the back foot after his Yaris stalled on the first proper stage in the trees. From there on he was flat out. Putting in some amazing performances and working his way up the results table, he managed 4th. First stage of Sunday and he was fastest on the splits, maybe too fast. Not far from the finish the car slide wide, hit a tree stump at high speed. Which sent his Yaris spinning and bouncing like a pinball until it came to a stop at the side of the stage. Lappi, finished the stage – On foot and without his Yaris. Not the way last years winner was hoping to end the Rally.
Wooden Spoon: Andreas Mikkelsen
We alway knew Hyundai would struggle a little on these higher speed events. They seem more suited for the twisty stuff. But Mikkelsen had his chance to shine. But he was never really on pace, struggled with set up of the car. Then threw it into a deep finnish ditch on Friday. Rolled the car but luckily there were plenty of fans to get him back onto his wheels, dropping around three minutes. This put him first on the road for the next two days. Ending the rally in last place of the top WRC drivers. His final win for VW in Australia seems like a life time ago. Probably because it was. He has the pace, just needs the results.
And the winner is….
Ott Tanak, what an incredible drive he did for Toyota. Battled with Ostberg from 3rd on the road. Come Saturday, with a cleanly swept gravel track & he was untouchable. Don’t count him out of the title fight just yet!