The World Rally Championship’s first ever Arctic race opens in Finland

The event was moved to the Arctic from southern Sweden because of coronavirus restrictions.

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Hyundai driver Ott Tanak led after the first day of the Arctic Rally on Friday, with the Estonian winning the opening two stages in northern Finland.

The snow and ice rally, based in Rovaniemi, is the second round of the season — and it marks the first time the championship has ventured north of the Arctic Circle.

The round had originally been scheduled to take place in Sweden, but coronavirus restrictions there forced organizers to move it north to Rovaniemi.

Meanwhile, Greenland is set to host an electric SUV off-road racing event this summer, part of a race series designed to draw attention to environmental issues.

Tanak won the first stage by 3.6 seconds and was then almost 10 faster than anyone else in the next one run in the evening dark.

“This has been a rollercoaster kind of day, typical for Finland with very technical and up-and-down roads,” added the 2019 world champion.

Estonian Hyundai driver Ott Tanak in action during the shakedown of the FIA WRC Arctic Lapland Rally. (Hannu Rainamo / Lehtikuva via Reuters)

Irish driver Craig Breen made it a Hyundai one-two at the top of the leaderboard, 16.2 seconds off the pace, with Finland’s Kalle Rovanpera third for Toyota.

“It’s a special feeling to be in the woods, in the dark, doing 200kph,” said Breen.

Saturday is the event’s longest day and the action features a further six stages.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London.