Another perfect winter day at Arctic Rally Finland, second round of the 2021 FIA World Rally Championship. Crews enjoyed brilliant sunshine and temperatures around zero centigrade during Saturday’s six stages. During the opening leg on Friday, WRC2 championship leader Andreas Mikkelsen (ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo) suffered being first of the category on the road. Third in WRC2 was the most he could achieve under the circumstances. “Rally2 cars have less track width than the Rally1 cars, which start every stage first,” Mikkelsen explained. “So the WRC2 leader always has to clean the specific line, which clearly is a disadvantage.”
For Saturday, category leaders Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (FIN/FIN) had to take over this unpopular job. Beginning the second leg third in the WRC2 starting order, Mikkelsen soon overtook overnight WRC2 second Nikolay Gryazin. But Lappi, in 2016 WRC2 champion for ŠKODA Motorsport, was clearly out of reach. “I pushed as hard as I could. But to be honest, I couldn’t match Esapekka’s speed,” Mikkelsen admitted. “The goal for Sunday is, to score maximum points in the power stage.” The Norwegian finished the day second, albeit the difference to Lappi over the day increased to 49.8 seconds.
During the morning loop, Toksport WRT team mates Eyvind Brynildsen/Veronica Gulbæk Engan (NOR/NOR) were locked in a battle with Adrien Formaux/Renaud Jamoul. When the French duo got stuck in a snow bank, the Norwegian ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo crew finally secured fourth in the category. “It’s really difficult to keep the tyres in good shape,” Brynildsen summed up the day. “We had a spin in the morning, in the afternoon it went a lot better.”
ŠKODA crews continue their domination in WRC3, the category reserved for pure private crews. Though, overnight leaders Emil Lindholm/Mikael Korhonen (ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo) lost first place after a spin into a snow bank followed by a brief encounter with a tree. Fellow Finns Teemu Asunmaa/Marko Salminen (ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo) took over the top spot. Former FIA World Rallycross Champion and DTM Meister Mattias Ekström (SWE), driving his own ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, advanced to fifth position in WRC3. After the second leg, seven of the top 10 cars in WRC3 sport the ŠKODA logo.
The first ever WRC winter rally in Finland comes to a close on Sunday. Only two stages covering 44,94 kilometres are left. The winner of Arctic Rally Finland is expected on the podium around 1:30 pm local time.
Standings Arctic Rally Finland after Leg 2 (WRC2)
1. Lappi/Ferm (FIN/FIN), VW Polo GTI Rally2, 1:48:20.9 hrs.
2. Mikkelsen/Fløene (NOR/NOR), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, +49.8 sec.
3. Gryazin/Aleksandrov (RAF/RAF), VW Polo GTI Rally 2, +1:25.8 min.
4. Brynildsen/ Gulbæk Engan (NOR/NOR), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, +2:31.5 min.
5. Veiby/Andersson (NOR/SWE), Hyundai NG i20 Rally2, +2:53.7 min.
6. Prokop/Ernst (CZE/CZE), Ford Fiesta MkII Rally2, +6:03.7 min.
Number of the day: 384
Ever wondered how a ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo reaches speeds of more 200 kph on roads packed with ice and snow? One of the secrets are the special tyres. Each carries 384 tungsten-tipped studs. To put more load on every square inch of rubber, they are also not as wide as gravel and asphalt tyres. On world championship level, these special snow tyres are only used during Rally Sweden or its 2021 substitute Arctic Rally Finland respectively.
2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Rallye Monte-Carlo 21 – 24 January
Arctic Rally Finland 26 – 28 February
Rally Croatia 22 – 25 April
Vodafone Rally Portugal 20 – 23 May
Rally Italia Sardegna 3 – 6 June
Safari Rally Kenya 24 – 27 June
Rally Estonia 15 – 18 July
Rally Finland 29 July – 1 August
Renties Ypres Rally Belgium 13 – 15 August
COPEC Rally Chile 9 – 12 September
RallyRACC Rally de España 14 – 17 October
Rally Japan 11 –14 November