Elfyn Evans has clinched his first Secto Automotive Rally Finland victory and his second win of the 2021 World Rally Championship after a stunning performance on the event that has celebrated its 70th anniversary this weekend.
The Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT driver enthralled the Finnish crowds in a nail-biting battle with Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team’s Ott Tänak on Saturday’s second leg, then showed remarkable composure on Sunday to claim victory by 14.1s. Evans kept up a relentless pace on Sunday and won three of the final four tests – including the Wolf Power Stage – for a final tally of nine fastest stage times out of 19 to secure the fifth WRC rally victory of his career.
“This one feels good, in the way we managed to do it as well,” said Evans. “We struggled a lot in Estonia and made some changes to the car in the test, and came and found some confidence in the car pretty early on. We had a good rhythm from an early road position on Friday and then managed to take the fight to them on Saturday. It feels pretty good now and a big thanks to the team. I’m happy to give them this on their home rally.”
The victory means he is now just 24 points behind WRC title leader Sébastien Ogier with two rounds of the 2021 championship to go. Fellow Toyota Yaris WRC driver Ogier finished fifth in Finland despite incurring a one-minute penalty on Saturday for a crash helmet safety infringement. The Frenchman also failed to score any bonus points in the Wolf Power Stage because of an engine problem.
“I always said from the outset our aim is to do the best we can on each rally that is left,” said Evans, who is now the only driver who can beat Ogier to the title following Thierry Neuville’s retirement from Secto Automotive Rally Finland on Saturday. “Obviously this one has been good, but we have to focus on doing our best now in Spain and worry about the rest later.”
Evans is the first Welsh driver to win Secto Automotive Rally Finland and the second Briton following Kris Meeke’s victory in 2016.