Bottas takes stage win, fifth overall on rally debut
Mercedes Formula 1 driver Valtteri Bottas claimed a stage win on his rallying debut in Finland, finishing fifth overall on the Arctic Lapland Rally driving a Ford Fiesta WRC.
Bottas, driving a car similar in spec to those currently being driven by M-Sport’s World Rally Championship drivers, was competing against Finnish championship regulars, who were piloting less-powerful R5-specification machinery used in the world championship’s WRC2 support category.
After a slow start with only seventh- and ninth-fastest times on the opening two stages of the event, Bottas climbed to fifth place by Friday afternoon, a position he would hold until the finish.
He was also able to claim a stage victory on the short 2.17-mile Mäntyvaara test, edging out Finnish championship regular Henrik Pietarinen by 2.3s.
Bottas spent much of the rally chasing Skoda Fabia driver Pietarinen for fourth place but his challenge faded in the final two stages, both of which were won by Pietarinen.
Bottas was co-driven by Marcus Gronholm’s long-time navigator Timo Rautiainen, who previously claimed two WRC titles in 2000 and 2002.
Gronholm’s son Niclas, who has spent the last three seasons competing in World Rallycross, was also competing in his first ever rally with a co-driver.
Driving a Skoda Fabia for the Printsport team that previously ran Citroen WRC driver Esapekka Lappi in the world championship's SWRC support category in 2012, Gronholm was forced to retire with a technical issue on the first day but charged back from 68th to 17th under Rally2 rules after Saturday’s five stages.
Former Ferrari F1 driver Mika Salo was also competing in an identical Printsport Fabia, recovering from 43rd place after stage one to finish 11th.
The rally was won by Emil Lindholm, son of erstwhile Peugeot factory driver Sebastian Lindholm, driving a Volkswagen Polo GTI R5.
Lowe: Hamilton exposure "extremely valuable" for Russell
Top F1 teams will "lose more performance" in 2019 - Budkowski