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Latvala leads home rally

Jari-Matti Latvala has taken the lead of Neste Oil Rally Finland, overhauling team-mate Sébastien Ogier to head the leaderboard by 2.6 seconds after the longest and toughest day of the event.
WRC 2015 rally finland day 1

Behind the Volkswagen duo, Citroën drivers Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg hold third and fourth respectively, the four drivers already comfortably ahead of the rest of the field after a day filled with drama.

Rally Finland kicked off last night with a short stage around the city of Jyväskylä, Ogier claiming the stage win ahead of today’s long day of competition. Nine stages totalling 158.43 kilometres - nearly half the competitive distance of the rally - lay in wait but critically the crews had no opportunity for servicing, meaning any problems picked up during the day would stay with them until they returned to the city and the safety of evening service. For many, this defined their day.

Latvala set the early pace in today’s opener, but Ogier immediately fought back with a string of three fastest stage times, taking the lead after SS3. Mixing speed with caution, Latvala was able to fight back this afternoon, undoubtedly also benefitting from Ogier running in looser gravel that had been pulled out by crews competing in the following national event. A great second run through the legendary Ouninpohja stage also aided Latvala’s charge and three more stage wins rewarded the Finn with the overall lead after an almost faultless day. French Polo R WRC team-mate Ogier has similarly run without problems and he and the Finn - who have both previously won Rally Finland - are set to continue their battle for honours over Saturday’s classic stages. Meeke, in third, was a brief rally leader, the Northern Irish driver topping the leaderboard after the first stage today. He dropped back during the morning loop with what he thought was a developing transmission problem, but has nevertheless managed to maintain third, albeit the gap to Ogier increasing by another 10 seconds when he picked up a penalty for arriving late for the start of the penultimate stage. Team-mate Østberg has steadily climbed from eighth to fourth and is just 10.1 seconds off the podium.

The situation behind the top four is a different story however. After crashing heavily on yesterday’s shakedown, Neuville was lucky to take the start but the Belgian has just not got into the groove since. His pace notes were too slow earlier in the day and then he nearly rolled this afternoon, the car jumping around in deep ruts. He is fifth, but nearly two minutes adrift of the leading pace. Dani Sordo has similarly not found top form, the Spaniard missing a junction and then suffering with a broken exhaust this morning. He and team-mate Neuville are nevertheless evenly matched and 2.7 seconds separate them this evening. Juho Hänninen, in a privately entered Fiesta RS WRC, is running well in seventh, despite limited time in the car before the event, and he heads Czech driver Martin Prokop in similar machinery. Rising Finnish star Esapekka Lappi is ninth and the leading FIA WRC 2 Championship contender and he sits just ahead of Ott Tanak. The Estonian has endured a difficult day after hitting a rock and breaking a damper in the second stage, forcing him to measure his pace for the rest of the day simply to get back to service and minimise the time loss. His team-mate Elfyn Evans is down the leaderboard in 20th with similar damage and consequences. Retirements of the day include Robert Kubica, who suffered a catalogue of technical issues, and Hayden Paddon and Andreas Mikkelsen who both went off the road. Neither will re-start.

In the FIA WRC Junior WRC and FIA WRC 3 Championships, Quentin Gilbert tops the standings ahead of Norway’s Ole Christian Veiby, both in DS3 R3Ts.


Neste Oil Rally Finland – Unofficial Results after Section 3

1.   Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila

Volkswagen Polo R WRC

1hr 16min 19.2sec

2.   Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia

Volkswagen Polo R WRC

1hr 16min 21.8sec

3.   Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle


1hr 16min 43.2sec

4.   Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson


1hr 16min 53.3sec

5.   Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul

Hyundai i20 WRC

1hr 18min 08.8sec

6.   Dani Sordo/Marc Marti

Hyundai i20 WRC

1hr 18min 11.5sec

7.   Juho Hänninen/Tomi Tuominen

Ford Fiesta RS WRC

1hr 18min 41.7sec

8.   Martin Prokop/Jan Tomanek

Ford Fiesta RS WRC

1hr 19min 05.8sec

9.   Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm

Skoda Fabia R5

1hr 19min 37.7sec

10. Ott Tanak/Raigo Molder

Ford Fiesta RS WRC

1hr 19min 49.4sec