Foreign drivers took the top four places on Finland’s AutoGlym test rally, run near Tampere as a pre-Neste Rally test event.
Belgian driver Thierry Neuville, who was at the wheel of Hyundai Motorsport’s test i20 Coupe WRC car, won by nearly two minutes from the Fabia R5 of Norwegian Ole Christian Veiby (Skoda R5).
Fighting for third place were Toyota’s two Fiesta R5 mounted Japanese trainee drivers Hiroki Arai (with Australian Glenn Macneall in the co-driver’s seat), and Takamoto Katsuta, in which Arai was faster by 2.4 seconds.
Fifth overall was the top Finnish driver, Kari Hamalainen, in a Fabia R5.
Strongly placed early on was British privateer Gus Greensmith who went off the road.
It is thought this was the first actual competition outside the WRC on which a 2017 specification car has taken part, with Neuville running alone in a special class.
Winner of the historic category was Mikko Hirvonen, co-driven by his old friend Jarmo Lehtinen, now Toyota Gazoo Racing’s rally manager.
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More success for Hyundai came at Rallye de Luxembourg (Rallye Lëtzebuerg) for Marijan Griebel in an i20 R5, beating the Peugeot 208 T16 of Jose Maria Lopez and three pursuing World Rally Cars.
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Renewed success has come again to Ott Tanak’s former WRC co-driver, Raigo Molder, who co-drove Georg Gross’ Fiesta WRC to victory on the Tartu Rally in the south east of Estonia.
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Renewed life has been found for one of Toyota’s disappointing GT86 CS-R3 by the ACI Team Italia, which will be entrusted on the next three rounds of the European Rally Championship to promising young Italian drivers.
Luca Bottarelli is to drive the car on Rally Rzeszow, Riccardo Canzian on Barum Czech Rally and Gianandrea Pisani on Roma de Roma Capitale.
Support by the Italian federation comes as further encouragement for the ERC, whose Junior championship already receives support from federations in Czech Republic, Germany, Estonia and Spain.
- Martin Holmes