A tough day for Irish crew as they drop from second to fourth – Hyundai Motorsport Arctic Rally Finland report

2021 FIA World Rally Championship Round 02, Arctic Rally Finland 26-28 February 2021 Craig Breen Photographer: Austral Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Hyundai Motorsport has extended its lead of Arctic Rally Finland, round two of the 2021 FIA World Rally Championship.

Hyundai Motorsport continues to lead Arctic Rally Finland after another strong performance from Estonians Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja on the penultimate day of the event.

The crew added three more stage wins during Saturday’s six-stage itinerary to increase their lead to 24.1-seconds. Meanwhile, Thierry Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe moved up into a provisional podium position, finishing the day with a stunning stage win to close the gap to second-placed Kalle Rovanperä to just 1.8-seconds.

Irish crew Craig Breen and Paul Nagle dropped down to fourth after a tricky day on the snowy and icy Finnish stages but kept all three Hyundai i20 Coupe WRCs inside the top-four overall with eight out of ten stages completed.

The longest individual day of the rally covered a competitive distance of 144.04km; a repeated loop of three high-speed stages – Mustalampi (SS3/SS6, 24.43km), Kaihuavaara (SS4/SS7, 19.91km) and Siikakämä (SS5/SS8, 27.68km) – with an early afternoon service offering a chance for crews to make adjustments and plan their all-important tyre strategies. The second pass was run into darkness, offering another impressive spectacle as cars illuminated the snowbanks and snow/ice-covered roads, with tyre management and stud retention playing an influential role.

2021 FIA World Rally Championship Round 02, Arctic Rally Finland 26-28 February 2021 Craig Breen Photographer: Austral Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Tänak and Järveoja set the fastest time on the opening run through Mustalampi but then lost out in the subsequent stage after getting caught in a snowbank. The crew bounced back immediately to complete the morning loop with another win, continuing their impressive pace into the afternoon.

Neuville and Wydaeghe made further improvements to their communication during the day, in just the second WRC event of their new partnership. They were second to their Estonian colleagues in SS3 and SS6, which allowed them to leapfrog Breen and Nagle into third place. The Belgians ended Saturday with a mighty time in SS8, winning the stage by 12.3 seconds in another Hyundai 1-2. An exciting final day beckons in the Arctic Circle.

2021 FIA World Rally Championship Round 02, Arctic Rally Finland 26-28 February 2021 Craig Breen Photographer: Austral Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

It was a tough Craig Breen and Paul Nagle day for the Irish crew saw them drop from second to fourth.

Their performance still ensured all three Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC cars remain in the top-four

Breen said: “It’s been a frustrating day, but we are still in fourth so it’s not too bad. You need to be at the absolute top of your game in these conditions. I started the first stage this morning well, got into a rhythm but then made a few mistakes, got sucked into a few snowbanks and lost the momentum.

“That upset the loop, really. I haven’t driven on these conditions for a long time and the pace notes weren’t as fast as they needed to be. I’ve tried my best to manage things – including the tyres – but it’s tricky when I don’t have any reference points.

2021 FIA World Rally Championship Round 02, Arctic Rally Finland 26-28 February 2021 Craig Breen Photographer: Austral Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

“On the final stage, Thierry set an incredible time but compared to those around us we weren’t too far away. I know we can do it. The raw speed is there; it’s just getting the other refinements in order. The plan now is to keep hold of fourth and assess the situation to see what we do in the Power Stage.”

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