Hyundai Motorsport has claimed its first victory of the 2021 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) with an assured performance from start to finish in Arctic Rally Finland, the second round of the season.
Estonian crew Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja concluded the ten-stage event confidently to win by 17.5-seconds from Kalle Rovanperä with team-mates Thierry Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe in third.
The double podium finish for Hyundai Motorsport marks its first-ever top-three result in a Finland-based WRC event and sees the team hold second in the manufacturers’ championship on 77 points, 11 behind the leaders, Toyota, after two rounds.
Tänak took the rally lead on the opening stage on Friday afternoon and never relinquished his authority of the event. With five stage wins out of ten and a measured approach to the final morning, he secured his second-ever win in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC (his first was at his home rally in Estonia last season).
Crews had just one stage to negotiate on the final day, the 22.47km Aittajärvi test, which was run twice. The second pass was held as the rally-concluding Power Stage with extra points available for the drivers’ and manufacturers’ championships.
Neuville and Wydaeghe, in just their second WRC event as a crew, picked up their second consecutive podium result after another solid weekend performance. They continued to work on their communication and collaboration, using the high-speed rally to make another important step forward in their partnership. A dominant stage win on Saturday evening was a sign of their progress.
Craig Breen and Paul Nagle, in their first WRC event of 2021, ensured all three Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC cars made it safely to the finish, taking fourth. The Irish crew started Sunday with a new gearbox after impressively fast work by the team’s mechanics in the 15-minute morning service and rewarded them for their efforts with the second fastest time in the Power Stage.
They were as high as second after Friday’s opening leg but dropped tofourth after a tricky Saturday on the snowy and icy Finnish stages.
Breen said: “I am happy to finish this rally with fourth place. In all honesty, it’s been a tough weekend. I’ve felt mentally – after delivering so much in Estonia last season – that the goalposts had moved, so I wanted to win but I also have to remember my experience is still a bit on the low side. It definitely gives me motivation to have made progress today. We spent some time in the regroup to analyse where I was losing time compared to the others. Thanks to the engineers, we were able to identify a few things that, maybe due to my driving style, were upsetting the car – erasing some traits that I’ve carried for a few years. I knew the speed was there, so it was nice to score some points for the team in the Power Stage and to end the weekend on a positive note.”
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