Ott Tanak has vowed to “put all in” in his bid for a fourth Rally Finland win after he began the ninth round of what has proved to be a troubled season for the M-Sport Ford driver with the quickest time through the Harju street stage in host city Jyvaskyla on Thursday evening.
Tanak beat Hyundai's Thierry Neuville by 0.6s on the 3.48-kilometre mixed surface run with home hero and world champion Kalle Rovanpera making it three manufacturers in the top three aboard his works Toyota.
After his time-topping 2m39.0s run, the Estonian, who was hit by a five-minute time penalty prior to the start of his home rally last month, said: “We need to risk and a lot more. We will try, we will put all in and let's see where it gets us. The ones we are fighting against are very strong. We need to put everything on the line.”
Rovanpera, who was fastest on Thursday morning's shakedown as he began his bid for a maiden win on home soil, lost vital time on Harju when he clipped a kerb with the right-rear wheel of his Yaris.
“The kerb was not so bad, it was quite small, I was knowing it was not so bad hit,” the 22-year-old Jyvaskyla resident said. “I can almost hear the people from inside of the car, I know how loud it is. It feels so amazing in the car.”
Esapekka Lappi was fourth for Hyundai with Rovanpera's team-mate Elfyn Evans, the 2021 Rally Finland winner, completing the stage with co-driver Scott Martin's wing mirror missing. The Welshman also clipped a kerb with his Toyota's right-rear wheel.
Pierre-Louis Loubet was next up in the second works Ford Puma followed by Japanese Toyota development driver Takamoto Katsuta, whose apartment in Jyvaskyla overlooks the Rally Finland service park.
Teemu Suninen said Harju 1 “was not the best for us, it was okay but nothing more” after he went eighth quickest in the third Hyundai, all of which ran without a spare wheel in an effort to save weight and time.
Jari-Mati Latvala, competing in the WRC for the first time since Rally Sweden in February 2020, was ninth quickest and the last of the Rally1 runners, 8.1s slower than Tanak as Jari Huttunen set the WRC2 pace and rounded out the top 10.
Earlier, Latvala officially marked his WRC comeback with the ninth fastest time on Thursday morning's 4.48-kilometre shakedown stage.
The 38-year-old home hero is swapping his team principal role at Toyota Gazoo Racing for the squad's fourth GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid on an event he has won three times in the past.
Although his time of 2m01.7s alongside co-driver Juho Hanninen was well down on Rovanpera's pacesetting effort of 1m56.3s through the Rannankyla stage – his first taste of hybrid power in competition mode – the Finn insisted before the start having fun mattered more than an outright result.
“It's great to be back,” said Latvala, who is making his 210th WRC start this weekend in a 2022-spec Yaris. “I have really enjoyed the week and getting into the car is a fantastic feeling. Over the jumps [it was] really good.”
Typically for Latvala, a driver with a reputation for being mistake prone earlier in this career, his first of his three runs wasn't without incident.
“I had a little exercise at the end of the stage,” he said. “A right-hander was a little bit slippier than I thought and I got a bit of a slide.”
Rally Finland continues on Friday morning with the 11.78-kilometre Laukaa test due to begin at 0805 local time/1505 AEST.