At the end of the first full day of Neste Oil Rally Finland, Finnish driver Jari-Matti Latvala leads by 2.6 seconds having dominated the afternoon stages in his Volkswagen Motorsport rally car, in a day which saw 3 competitors break away.
Latvala had started off on the back foot having been slower than team mate Sebastien Ogier in SS1 on Thursday night. Ogier proceeded to extend his lead going into Friday with the French driver leading by 5.3 seconds over Latvala by the end of the morning.
Ogier would cut the gap back in the final stage at Harju, setting up a tight battle for victory going into day 2 of Rally Finland. After his run, the championship leader seemed content.
“It’s been a great day for me, I’m really happy. This afternoon I struggled – always in Finland the second loop is difficult when you’re following the national rally, it’s quite disturbing and quite a disadvantage.”
Behind the leading two was Kris Meeke, who was the only driver able to keep up with the Volkswagens in the early stages, being 10.6s behind in the morning.
However; a 10 second penalty for turning up to SS9 late and a continuous transmission problem will severely affect his chances of winning. Despite the issues, he was the only driver to beat the Volkswagens in a stage having gone fastest in SS7.
In the other Citroen car, Mads Ostberg was not able to keep up with his team mate, as he finishes the day with a ten second deficit, however, he did beat the Hyundai‘s into fifth and sixth with Thierry Neuville over a minute behind Ostberg and Dani Sordo a further three seconds back.
Finnish driver Juho Hanninen is best of the rest in seventh in his Ford car. After the final stage he commented on his day saying; “It’s really, really nice to be here after a long, long break, I’ve been careful today.” Behind him, Martin Prokop rounds out the top 8.
Andreas Mikkelsen will rue a missed opportunity having crashed early in the day, putting him out of contention for the rest of the Rally with the team choosing not to start tomorrow.
While a crash also saw Hayden Paddon retire, with an alternator problem putting Robert Kubica out of contention after a strong Thursday for the Polish driver. While Estonian Ott Tanak struggled with a broken damper after hitting a rock in SS3.