2016 Rally Finland: Kris Meeke takes comfortable Day 1 lead

Kris Meeke has built up an 18 second lead after the first day of Rally Finland 2016.

The Northern Irishman in the Abu Dhabi World Rally Team Citroën DS 3 with co-driver Paul Nagle returned to the World Rally Championship with a bang after winning four speed tests to lead by +18.1 seconds going into Day 2.

Meeke said after leading Day 1 of Rally Finland I tried to manage the car this afternoon but you need so much commitment on these roads to be fast. We were able to hold the gap but tomorrow could be a different story on the big stages, which we drive in the opposite direction to normal. I’ve not had this type of control in years gone by, but it’s coming now.

Rally Finland usually favours the Nordic drivers, but Volkswagen’s Jari-Matti Latvala was second, +18.1 seconds behind the rally leader Meeke. Latvala is going for his third win on the bounce in three years on a rally that the Polo R is unbeaten in since 2014 on this event.

Hyundai Motorsport’s Thierry Neuville was third, after scrapping with Meeke’s Citroën team-mate Craig Breen and Latvala’s Volkswagen team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen all day for third place.

Credit: Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool
Credit: Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

Championship leader Sébastien Ogier went off in SS10 in Surkee while in third and landed his Polo R in a ditch, handing the initiative to the Belgian, who had handling problems earlier on, but managed to go ahead of the Norwegian in fourth by over a second.

Irishman Breen was fifth in the other DS 3 despite overshooting a junction. While Neuville’s team-mate Hayden Paddon was in sixth, suffering similar set-up problems in his i20.

M-Sport’s Mads Østberg was seventh in the Ford Fiesta RS WRC, while DMACK’s Ott Tänak in the same car finished Day 1 in eighth place despite being at one point behind the rally leader Meeke by +0.7 seconds.

The Estonian had his steering in his Fiesta break, leaving him at one point in tenth, but he had three stage wins to consolidate for today’s efforts despite having a puncture later on in the day.

Completing the top ten after Day 1 of Rally Finland 2016 were France’s Eric Camilli in the other M-Sport Ford Fiesta in ninth, while Esapekka Lappi in his Škoda Fabia R5 finished the day in an impressive tenth place.

In WRC2, Lappi has built up a comfortable +42.5 second lead over his fellow Finn Teemu Suninen in second place. Sweden’s Pontus Tidemand completed the top three positions after Day 1 of Rally Finland 2016 +1.3 seconds behind Suninen in third.

While in the Junior WRC category, Norway’s Ole Christian Veiby continues to lead Rally Finland on Day 1, leading the current championship leader Simone Tempestini by 15 seconds in second. Italy’s Andrea Crugnola is third while Tempestini’s nearest rival in the championship Terry Folb scrapes the top nine in ninth place.

Meanwhile, in the Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy, Britain’s Osian Pryce leads after Day 1 by +1.1 seconds ahead of Max Vatanen on his home rally. Portugal’s Bernardo Sousa is nearly 45 seconds behind the Finn in third place.

Credit: @World Photography/Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy
Credit: @World Photography/Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy

Tomorrow’s Day 2 is the longest of the entire 2016 Rally Finland weekend with drivers racking up 150.48 kilometres, including the 33 kilometre ‘Ouninpohja’ stage, which is regarded as rallying’s biggest test of bravery and commitment.