Flying Finn Jari-Matti Latvala leads his home round of the FIA World Rally Championship after the opening afternoon of competition in the lands of the 1000 lakes. The Polo R WRC driver has pulled out a slim but significant 4.5 second advantage over team-mate Sébastien Ogier while Kris Meeke is hot on their heels in third in the DS3 WRC.
After a short break, Neste Oil Rally Finland marks the start of the second half of the season and always delivers spectacular action over its fast and flowing gravel stages. After weeks of fine weather, however, the heavens opened as the crews headed from the start in Jyväskylä to the first four stages and 59.51 kilometres of competition.
Latvala took command from the outset, winning the first two stages before conceding the third and fourth to Ogier, the Frenchman happier running first on the road in the wet conditions. Latvala will now lead the crews in to the first full day on Friday with a great psychological advantage. Behind Ogier, Kris Meeke has run without problems at a comfortable pace. Mikko Hirvonen moved from fifth to fourth in the final stage when Juho Hänninen in the lead Hyundai i20s slowed in the rutted penultimate stage and then dropped a bit more time in the final stage. Andreas Mikkelsen is in hot pursuit just one-tenth of a second adrift in sixth and while Mads Østberg is only a further 3.7 seconds behind, the Norwegian is bemused with his lack of pace and like eighth-place Neuville will doubtless be making set-up changes for tomorrow. Robert Kubica is ninth and Hayden Paddon is running a steady 10th. Henning Solberg lost eighth position in the penultimate stage having sustained a puncture. Friday’s route covers nine stages and 134.47 competitive kilometres.
Neste Oil Rally Finland – Unofficial Results after Section 2
1. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila Volkswagen Polo R WRC 29min 17.9sec
2. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia Volkswagen Polo R WRC 29min 22.4sec
3. Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle Citroën DS3 WRC 29min 27.1sec
4. Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen Ford Fiesta RS WRC 29min 44.3sec
5. Juho Hänninen/Tomi Tuominen Hyundai i20 WRC 29min 45.0sec
6. Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Floene Volkswagen Polo R WRC 29min 45.1sec
7. Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson Citroën DS3 WRC 29min 48.8sec
8. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul Hyundai i20 WRC 29min 56.7sec
9. Robert Kubica/Maciej Szczepaniak Ford Fiesta RS WRC 30min 10.0sec
10. Hayden Paddon/John Kennard Hyundai i20 WRC 30min 23.9sec