Led by a flying Henri HaapamÃ¤ki, on a charge right to the finish, the Finnish clan was beaten by the Frenchman Quentin Gilbert at Rally Finland. This was Quentin Gilbertâ€™s third win in four events this season. At JyvaskylÃ¤, he finished ahead of the Finn Henri HaapamÃ¤ki Ââ€“ by just half a second â€“ and the Norwegian Ole Christian Veiby.The next round, held on tarmac, is the Tour de Corse on 1-4 October.
The battle commenced on Thursday evening, Finland against the rest of the world, with a super special stage held in the streets of JyvaskylÃ¤. Leader of the FIA Junior WRC, Quentin Gilbert got off to the best start ahead of his fellow countryman Terry Folb and Henri HaapamÃ¤ki.
On Friday morning, HaapamÃ¤ki got into his stride with an opening stage win on Pihlajakoski. He was trailed by the Irishman Daniel McKenna and Jari Huttunen. However, the next test turned the proceedings on their head. Henri HaapamÃ¤ki picked up a puncture and lost 2m 30s to the Italian Simone Tempestini, who took over the category lead.
The race then took on a whole new form at the start of Ouninpohja. Henri HaapamÃ¤ki began a run of form worthy of some the greatest Finnish drivers! With six consecutive stage wins, he shot up the standings from tenth to third position. At the front, Quentin Gilbert grabbed the lead at the end of SS4 and began to counter the rapidly closing HaapamÃ¤ki.
By the end of the opening day, Gilbert was 1m 23s ahead of Ole Christian Veiby and 1m 32s clear of Henri Haapamaki. Federico Della Casa, Jari Huttunen, Jean-RenÃ© Perry, Terry Folb, Mohammed Al Mutawaa and Simone Tempestini (stopped after going off) completed the standings. Daniel McKenna (radiator leak after a jump), Pierre-Louis Loubet (roll) and Matthieu Margaillan (personal reasons) all retired from the rally.
On Saturday, only Jari Huttunen managed to stop Henri HaapamÃ¤ki from achieving a clean sweep. HaapamÃ¤ki racked up another seven consecutive stage wins to finish the leg just 22.8 seconds behind Quentin Gilbert. Federico Della Casa (rolls) and Jari Huttunen (puncture and damaged front suspension) were forced to retire. Third-placed Ole Christian Veiby was followed by Terry Folb, Jean-RenÃ© Perry and Mohammed Al Mutawaa, all some way back.
The short final day served up an incredibly dramatic finale for the spectators. Quentin Gilbert arrived a minute late at the time control for SS19. Henri HaapamÃ¤ki claimed another stage win to move to within 2.4 seconds with just the final stage to go. Despite recording a sixteenth stage win out of a total of twenty, HaapamÃ¤ki missed out on the overall victory, which went to Quentin Gilbert, by just 0.5 seconds! Ole Christian Veiby took the final podium spot and the other points went to Terry Folb, Jean-RenÃ© Perry, Mohammed Al Mutawaa, Jari Huttunen, Federico Della Casa and Simone Tempestini.
After this fourth event of the season, Quentin Gilbert now has a 33-point lead over Henri HaapamÃ¤ki. Simone Tempestini is 34 points back and Ole Christian Veiby is 41 points off the lead. In the Nations Trophy, France leads the standings, ahead of Italy and Finland.
The FIA Junior WRC competitors now switch to tarmac for the Tour de Corse on 1-4 October.