Hyundai Motorsport has completed the opening day of Rally Finland, round ten of the 2021 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), with a provisional 1-2 after a competitive start on the high-speed gravel roads.
Against a backdrop of autumnal colours in the Finnish forests, crews tackled two slightly different loops, each consisting of three stages. An early morning shakedown in Vesala allowed Hyundai Motorsport’s three pairings to get acquainted with the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC on the notoriously fast roads.
Friday’s six stages were condensed into an afternoon-evening schedule, starting with the 2.31km Harju timed test that eased crews into an action-packed opening itinerary. The first loop continued with the longer Ässämäki (SS2/4, 12.31km) and Sahloinen-Moksi (SS3.5, 21.37km) stages.
With just a mid-afternoon tyre fitting zone splitting the loops, crews attacked the repeat of those two runs before Oittila (SS6, 19.75km) brought the day to a close in darkening conditions.
Craig Breen and Paul Nagle got their Rally Finland off to a flyer with a stage win in SS2, leading a Hyundai 1-2 as Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja moved into the rally lead. The stage positions were switched on the following run, as the team completed a strong opening loop.
The Estonians extended their advantage with another top time in SS4 before their Irish team-mates took the honours just one stage later. An exciting battle saw one final change on the last stage of the day – held in night conditions – as Breen and Nagle moved into the overall lead with a committed run in SS6. They concluded Friday’s schedule 2.8-seconds ahead of Tänak with Belgians Thierry Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe in sixth place.
Crew Notes: Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (#42 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
- Irish crew scored two stage wins (SS2 and SS5)
- Moved into lead of Rally Finland after a strong run in the night stage (SS6)
Breen said: “It sounds pretty good to be rally leader this evening. We have had an amazing day and I’ve enjoyed every second of it. The stages are really nice, and especially the final one in the dark. I have always questioned what Finland would be like in night conditions and now we know – absolutely incredible! The later runners were a bit more in darkness, and I actually had some moments at the start. We lost a bit of rhythm, missed a couple of junctions but nothing terrible; I enjoyed the last part inside the forest, and it was nice to see the time at the end. I think everyone is going to find a little something extra tomorrow, so we’ll try to take any opportunity that comes our way.”