Pune: Finland is a magical land for rallyists and no wonder Sanjay Takale was overjoyed with the way he was cheered up all the way through the course as he became the first registered driver from India to finish a round of the FIA World Rally Championship at the iconic Neste Rally Finland.
Rally enthusiasts lined up all over the course and it didn’t matter to them who finished at what place, the enthusiasm to cheer was as if ingrained in the Finnish tradition.
Takale finished 14th in the WRC3 category and 47th overall in the grueling Rally Finland after the final of action that saw two Special Stages—Laukaa and Ruuhimaki run twice over before the final flourish.
The Pune-based Takale and his British co-driver Darren Garrod survived the 23 Special Stages over a total of 317.26-km in their rally-spec 2-Wheel drive Ford Fiesta over four days.
“Like any rally driver, I also dreamt of participating in and finishing a FIA World Rally Championship event. So, it was a dream come true for me to compete in and finish the fastest WRC event on our planet!,” is how Takale reflected on his debut WRC Rally Finland.
On Sunday as Takale started 13th, he went through the first Stage in Laukaa over 11.74-km in 8 min 2.4 secs, while in the second loop he timed it in 7:59.02.
The Ruuhimaki Stage measuring 11.12-km was power stage in the second loop and in both he improved his timing, but the competition was nevertheless tough. Takale clocked 8:02.6 in the first loop and 7:55.9 in the final power stage.
“It was an amazing experience overall and a steep learning curve for me overall. Probably, I could have fared better had I not lost time due to a puncture and twice having to repair the damaged lower arms of my car.
However, that is part and parcel of rallying and I am not complaining,” said Takale.
“Going forward, I might do more WRC events. At the same time, I have to work on my fitness to do better in WRC rallies, which are long and punishing. In Rally Finland, for instance, we covered a total distance of 1,400-km.
Right now, I want to savour these moments after completing a WRC event, though I have plenty to think about!”
Tanak wins, Neuville stays on top
Estonian Ott Tanak won Rally Finland for Toyota while Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville finished ninth but retained the overall world championship lead. The victory was Tanak’s second of the season after Argentina in April.
Norwegian Mads Ostberg was second for Citroen, denying Toyota a 1-2 finish by beating Finland’s Jari-Matti Latvala by 2.8 seconds.
France’s reigning champion Sebastien Ogier was fifth.
After eight of 13 rounds, Neuville has a 21 point lead over Ogier with the Belgian on 153—and picking up two power stage points—and his rival now on 132. Hyundai lead M-Sport in the constructors’ standings by 26 points.
“The main target was not losing too many points to Ogier. We could only control what’s in our hands. We gave it everything we could in the Power Stage and it was good to take a couple of extra points,” said Neuville.
The next round is in Germany on August 16-19.