Hyundai Motorsport holds an early 1-2 in Arctic Rally Finland, the second round of the 2021 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), after an encouraging start on snowy stages
Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja set the fastest time on both Sarriojärvi stages to establish a 16.2-second lead over team-mates Craig Breen and Paul Nagle
Thierry Neuville holds fourth place in his second WRC event alongside new co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe, with eight stages remaining over the next two days.
Hyundai Motorsport has made its intentions clear on the opening day of Arctic Rally Finland, the second round of the 2021 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), holding a provisional 1-2 after the first two stages of the event.
Estonians Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja set the early pace to establish a lead of 16.2-seconds over their Irish team-mates Craig Breen and Paul Nagle. In just their second event as a crew, Thierry Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe concluded Friday’s running in fourth with eight stages remaining.
Friday’s itinerary might not have appeared too demanding on paper, but it was certainly a challenge, fitting for the championship’s only full-snow event. After an early morning shakedown, held over a 5.69km route at Vennivaara, crews were faced with the daunting prospect of the rally’s longest stage – Sarriojärvi (31.05km) – run twice in the afternoon without the luxury of a midway service.
The second pass was held in dark early evening conditions as a result of typically short daytime hours in northern Finland and the Arctic Circle. Studded Pirelli tyres were put through their paces as crews negotiated high-speed roads and classic winter rally conditions.
Tänak claimed stage win honours on both passes through Sarriojärvi, with an advantage of 3.6s and 9.8s over Breen and Kalle Rovanperä respectively. With a Hyundai Motorsport 1-2 in the opening stage, the scene was set for a closely fought battle, which looks set to continue into Saturday – which will cover 144km over six special stages.
Irish crew hold second place in their first WRC event of 2021.
Breen said: “It’s nice to be here with such unique conditions; it’s a special feeling to be in the woods, in the dark, doing 200kph – I definitely enjoyed it! I have had a good starting position, but I honestly don’t think I took the full benefit from that, particularly in the first stage. In the second run, I tried to push hard – perhaps a bit too much at the start because I suffered towards the end, losing studs in the last three to four kilometres. This is something that comes with time and experience. I know I can jump in the car after six months and be on the pace, but it takes time to refine the small things. Absence certainly makes the heart grow fonder, and it’s nice to have the confidence and security from a full programme.”
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