Jari Huttunen secured WRC2 victory on his category debut, piloting his Printsport Skoda to victory by over two minutes from Quentin Gilbert behind.
With several RC2 entrants withdrawing from the WRC2 points classification shortly before the rally, Huttunen was left with a smaller field to battle, and had quickly established a one minute lead by the end of Friday. He doubled this advantage on Saturday, and maintained the gap to runner-up Gilbert in today’s four remaining stages.
Huttunen had instead focused on battling Eric Camilli, who was not registered for WRC2 points but was in the same RC2 category for R5 specification cars. Having started behind the Frenchman after Friday’s set of stages, he took the lead of RC2 on Saturday, and held the M-Sport driver at bay by 12.7 seconds at the finish.
The rest of the podium was made up by Gilbert and Tom Cave. The Brit had dealt with crippling brake issues on Friday, and took advantage of reliability problems and accidents for those ahead to move up to the final podium place, his first in the second tier of the WRC since finishing 2nd in the SWRC category at Rally GB in 2012.
Fellow Brit Osian Pryce had elected to take a steady approach to the rally, with the objective of learning the Finnish stages and avoid a repeat of his early retirement in Poland. His consistent approach earned him fourth position.
Simone Tempestini rounded out the top five, taking advantage of drama on the second of Sunday’s stages for Hiroki Arai. The Toyota development driver had struggled with engine problems all weekend with his Fiesta R5, and was forced to retire after a crash through the first pass of Oitilla.
Arai’s team-mate Takamoto Katsuta had his difficult weekend turn even worse, incurring a second retirement in as many days. He spun during Sunday’s opening stage, causing terminal damage to his Fiesta’s radiator.
Raul Jeets was the last of the cars to finish without retiring and returning during any of the previous days, 12 minutes off Huttunen’s pace by the finish.
There was a battle for seventh between Pierre-Louis Loubet and Gus Greensmith, who had both returned to action under Rally2 after retiring on Friday. Greensmith had restarted just under half a minute behind Loubet on Saturday morning, and despite closing the gap to only 17 seconds at one point, he was unable to make solid inroads into the Frenchman’s advantage. Greensmith was left to settle for seventh place, 19.1 seconds behind Loubet.
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