Qatar World Rally Team driver Thierry Neuville tops the leaderboard of one of the most iconic events in the FIA World Rally Championship, Rally Finland. After the opening afternoon of competition the Belgian heads the field by 5.2 seconds after a very close-fought competition that has seen two drivers jointly lead on no fewer than three stages. Second is held by Championship leader and Volkswagen Motorsport driver Sébastien Ogier while in third is Mads Østberg.
Rally Finland runs to a two and a half day format and today’s route took in five stages before heading back to Jyväskylä for the popular super special stage at Killeri. Ogier took the plaudits in the opening stage, but Neuville fought back in the following test, putting him and Mikko Hirvonen jointly in the lead. Such was the tightness of the battle, Ogier’s victory in stage three saw him head the leaderboard alongside Neuville before he was again overhauled by Hirvonen, who then went on to assume equal position with Neuville. However, in the final stage before returning to Jyväskylä, heavy rain hampered Hirvonen, the Finn losing 16 seconds in this single 8.72 kilometre stage. Østberg took the win, leaving Neuville to take a clear and singular lead for the first time in four stages. In the Super Special Stage, Neuville won, but Ogier climbed into second ahead of Østberg.
Behind the leading trio and fourth-placed Hirvonen, Juho Hänninen is fifth but battling hard with both Hirvonen ahead and Kris Meeke behind. Meeke has had a fine day in his first competitive outing since Wales Rally GB in 2011, the Briton delighted at the opportunity to drive the Citroën DS3 WRC. He is sixth, despite one puncture, and ahead of Evgeny Novikov who lost time in stage four with an overshoot. Andreas Mikkelsen is eighth, the Norwegian suffering the same fate as Novikov. Dani Sordo has had an uneventful day leaving him trailing in ninth, more than 30 seconds off the lead. Jarkko Nikara rounds off the top ten.
Not everyone escaped unscathed today and the leading retirement was Jari-Matti Latvala. The Finn hit a rock in the second stage, damaging the rear suspension. While he and co-driver Miikka Anttila managed to affect repairs after the stage, they were ultimately forced to withdraw from the day with too many stage kilometres to run.