His objective was clear: “at least to win”; Estonian Ott Tänak won the Arctic Rally on Sunday, the second round of the WRC world championship contested behind closed doors in Finland, ahead of Finland’s Kalle Rovanperä, who at 20 became the youngest driver to take charge of the World Cup standings.
The 2019 world champion, forced to retire in Monte-Carlo at the end of January, took his revenge and dominated this unprecedented round from start to finish through the snowy forests of Lapland, signing half of the scratch times.
“We had a very good weekend, nothing too much, just one mistake yesterday,” commented the Toyota driver at the end of the last special.
His Hyundai teammate, the Belgian Thierry Neuville, fighting to the end with Rovanperä for second place, completed the podium.
Local of the stage, Rovanperä (Toyota) had set the scene before the race: “I want to be on the podium at the end of the weekend and I hope we can also fight for first place”.
If he has never managed to overtake Tänak, the young driver says he is “happy with the points obtained”.
“At the beginning, the idea was to be fast from the first special, I tried but I did not manage to handle the first special well and I lost a little time”, he concedes .
The Finn nevertheless signs the right operation by seizing the orders of the championship, held until then by the French Sébastien Ogier, his teammate at Toyota and becomes, at the age of 20, the youngest driver to occupy the first place in the provisional world ranking. , announced his team.
Rovanperä now has 39 points in the provisional standings of the drivers’ world championship, four more than his provisional runner-up Neuville (35 points) and intends to “fight (…) on other rallies” to clinch his first victory .
“Weekend to forget” for Ogier
Ogier, the reigning world champion, left the road at the very end of the last special on Saturday. 200 meters from the finish, he finished his race in a wall of snow.
“It’s a weekend to forget,” reacted the French driver, who had already suffered from his position as an opener on the snow-covered Finnish roads on Friday.
After winning the 8th Monte-Carlo Rally of his career a month ago, Ogier finished more than 10 minutes from Tänak. He is now in third place in the world championship standings, tied on points with his teammate Elfyn Evans (31 points).
“I couldn’t do more than that, it’s like that, until the next one,” reacted the Frenchman after the final special.
Minute of silence
On the constructors’ side, Hyundai has managed to place its three drivers in the Top 4. The team goes back to 11 Toyota units, leading with 88 points.
“I said after Monte-Carlo that only a victory would have brought us back to the level where we need to be. I think my team did an incredible job. We understood our mistakes,” said Andrea Adamo, boss of the South Korean team.
This second round of the championship was marked by the announcement on Saturday of the death at the age of 78 of Finnish rally legend Hannu Mikkola. A minute of silence was observed before the podium on Sunday, in tribute to the 1983 world champion.
Many personalities of motorsport, such as the president of the International Automobile Federation (FIA), Jean Todt, who had been his co-driver, or the world champions Carlos Sainz, Sébastien Ogier and Petter Solberg, paid tribute to him.
After this snowy round, which replaced the Rally Sweden canceled due to a pandemic, the championship will continue on gravel with a third round in Croatia, from April 22 to 25.