FIA news bulletin from the 2014 Neste Oil Rally Finland
Fri 01.08.14, 9:09PM
Volkswagen driver Jari-Matti Latvala continues to lead Neste Oil Rally Finland after an intense day of competition in the forests. The flying Finn now has 19.7 seconds in hand to Kris Meeke who overhauled defending FIA World Rally Champion Sébastien Ogier this afternoon.
Today’s route took in two identical loops of four stages before returning to Jyväskylä for the second run over the famous Harju stage. In contrast to yesterday, blue skies and sunshine added to the spectacular backdrop of one of the most challenging and blisteringly fast events on the World Rally Championship calendar. On a high, Latvala has barely put a foot wrong and powered the Polo R WRC to five stage victories, also notching up the car’s 250th stage win since its launch at the beginning of 2013. He drifted into a ditch in the opening stage but has otherwise had a trouble-free run on his home round of the series. Team-mate Sébastien Ogier was once again running first on the road and while the road cleaning effect appeared less obvious this morning, the Frenchman lost time this afternoon and was ultimately overhauled by Kris Meeke in stage 11, the Northern Irish driver surprised to have moved ahead of his rival, albeit with just 1.6 seconds in hand. He and Ogier were the only other drivers to claim stage wins, Meeke with one and Ogier with three.
Behind the battling trio at the head of the leaderboard, the fight for fourth position is even more intense with Andreas Mikkelsen, Mads Østberg and Mikko Hirvonen split by just 3.1 seconds this evening. Mikkelsen has run without problems and while overnight set-up changes benefitted Østberg, the Norwegian took the first few stages to get into the groove and back into the fight. Hirvonen had a spin this afternoon but the rivals look set to provide another titanic battle for honours tomorrow. From an overnight 10th, Hayden Paddon is now seventh in the lead Hyundai i20 WRC after team-mate Juho Hänninen rolled out of fourth position in the second stage. The Finn was able to continue but was forced to remove the windscreen for the following two stages, resulting in an incredibly windy ride for him, the co-driver and pace note book! He is ninth behind Fiesta RS WRC driver Elfyn Evans after failing to make further progress due to a power steering problem this afternoon. Thierry Neuville was forced into retirement after the lunchtime service with damage to the roll cage after he clouted the back-end of the car this morning. Robert Kubica is also on the retirement list, the Pole ending up in a ditch with an over-optimistic pace note, although he will re-join tomorrow under Rally 2 regulations. Martin Prokop also went off the road.
Neste Oil Rally Finland – Unofficial Results after Section 4