Bernie Ecclestone once suggested that all Formula 1 circuits have water sprinklers, to spice up the action a bit. So maybe cold and dark should be added to the menu on every rally? Finland is always the most spectacular event on the WRC thanks to its flat-out speeds and extra-terrestrial jumps: M-Sport’s Adrien Fourmaux set this year’s record by leaping for 68 metres on the Ruuhimäki Power Stage.
But what made this year’s Rally Finland very different was the fact it was held in October rather than its traditional summer date, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. This not only meant that temperatures were cool, with some damp and slippery road surfaces, but also that the rally went on into darkness. There’s something about the night that acts like a fast-forward button: watching the in-car footage through those pitch-black forests was a time-warping experience.
The unusually cool conditions also meant that all the drivers chose the soft tyre from start to finish, so there was no messing around with tyre strategy to gain an advantage. It was a no-holds-barred sprint from start to finish, mano a mano.
The man who came out on top of one of the fastest rallies ever held was Welshman Elfyn Evans, who over the past couple of years has emerged as his Toyota team-mate Sébastien Ogier’s closest championship challenger. After Finland, Evans is now 24 points behind with two rallies to go: Spain and Monza. That’s a tall order, but far from impossible.
This was Evans’ fifth rally win – and certainly the best – putting him on track to break into the upper echelon. It’s already the same number of wins as names like Markko Märtin and Jean-Pierre Nicolas scored. If – or rather, when – Evans wins five more, he’ll be on the same total as world champions Ari Vatanen and Richard Burns.
To see how dominant Evans was in Finland, it’s enough to look at average speeds. Not only did he obviously set the fastest average speed of the entire rally at 125.5kph, but he also set the highest average speed on a single stage (Laukaa) at 133kph.
He’ll be wishing he’d gone just over one kilometre an hour quicker, though: Kris Meeke (equally on five career wins) still holds the outright speed record after winning the 2016 Rally Finland at an average of 126.6kph. On that occasion, though, it was the height of summer in daylight and the roads were bone dry…