Sébastien Ogier leads the Neste Oil Rally Finland after SS1 – the Harju. An impressive run means that he is once again the man to beat as the rally heads in to its first full day. Meanwhile Thierry Neuville slid off into the trees in the warm up, damaging his car and his chances.
Ogier was the final man to run, with the championship leader once again setting the fastest time with a 1:48.6. A smooth run saw the Frenchman make few mistakes, with the exception of a jump over the chicane towards the end of his run, he leads by 0.6 seconds.
Neuville was on the back foot even before the Rally begun. Having severely damaged his car on the warm up. He crashed on the fast left bend near the end of his first pass through the 4.62km Ruuhimäki stage. The team started the servicing as soon as the car returned, with the Belgium born driver soon being given the all clear on his Hyundai by the FIA Scrutineers.
“It was quite a huge off. I arrived at the corner at about 160kph and went off at about 80kph. There was no escape because the trees were very close to the road,” he said.
“The grip was much less than I expected. I saw the braking lines from the other boys and tried to adapt. But I was too far off line and with the camber of the road I couldn’t take the apex and went straight off.”
Similar issues befell Craig Breen, with a deflated tyre the causing him to roll earlier in the day. While Mads Ostberg ended the warm-up fastest, but could only manage the sixth quickest time at the end of SS1.
Robert Kubica was one of the first to run on the Harju stage through the city, but kept the lead for most of the session with a time of 1:49.7, eventually going fourth fastest ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala.
Chris Meeke would beat the Polish drivers time, 0.5 seconds faster than the benchmark, going into the weekend he said he felt positive. He kept the lead for most of the session, even displacing Andreas Mikkelsen in third, but was eventually pushed down by the final runner, Ogier.