FIA news bulletin from the 2014 Neste Oil Rally Finland
Sat 02.08.14, 4:04PM
At the end of a tense afternoon of high-speed action, Jari-Matti Latvala has clung on to his lead in Neste Oil Rally Finland by the skin of his teeth. The Finn’s advantage has been slashed to just 3.4 seconds because of brake problems, allowing team-mate Sébastien Ogier to reel in the local hero. Kris Meeke remains in third, although the Northern Irish driver has slipped back from the fight for victory.
The longest day of the rally took in two identical loops of five stages covering 130.36 competitive kilometres and has provided spectacular competition in the sun-drenched forests. Latvala was immediately on the pace this morning and took victory in four of the first five stages to increase his lead to nearly 30 seconds by the mid-day service. The Finn, who has barely put a foot wrong on his home round of the Championship, then had the fight of his life on his hands this afternoon after damaging the brakes in stage 20 from a heavy impact in a hole. In the following stage he completely lost one of the front callipers and was forced to drive the remaining three stages with only three brakes. Seizing the opportunity, Ogier wound in his team-mate and reduced a 31.1 second advantage to just 3.4 seconds, setting up a titanic battle for victory tomorrow. Meeke, second last night, was overhauled by Ogier in the second stage this morning after hitting a rock and damaging a wheel and, like many of the drivers, has had a few moments over rough stages this afternoon. He is nevertheless a comfortable third.
Behind the leading trio, Andreas Mikkelsen, Mads Østberg and Mikko Hirvonen looked set for a big fight for fourth position, separated by just 3.1 seconds last night. However, Østberg wasn’t entirely comfortable this morning and then went on to hit a rock in the fourth stage. On arriving back at service, damage to the roll cage ruled him out of the fight and he was forced to retire. Hirvonen slipped back too after he also hit a rock, punctured and damaged the damper. He is fifth this evening following Østberg’s retirement. Mikkelsen escaped largely unscathed, just a brake problem hampering him in the last stage and he is 53.6 seconds ahead of Hirvonen this evening. Hayden Paddon holds sixth in the lead Hyundai i20 WRC and the New Zealander is 28.8 seconds ahead of team-mate Juho Hänninen. Elfyn Evans was relieved to complete the day with little more than a puncture and the Welshman is eighth ahead of Craig Breen. Henning Solberg has fought back from a series of punctures throughout the event to overnight in 10th.
The final day of competition on Sunday covers just three stages and 36.60 competitive kilometres.
Neste Oil Rally Finland – Unofficial Results after Section 6