Latvala leads in the land of the lakes

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