Jari-Matti Latvala has taken the lead of Rally Finland midway through the morning loop – holding Finnish compatriot and team-mate Esapekka Lappi at bay – while the tree-lined forest stages claimed both Sébastien Ogier and Hayden Paddon as early victims.
Ott Tänak had established himself as the leader in the morning’s first stage, but in the first running of the Jukojärvi stage, he slid wide and clipped a rock, breaking the right-rear wheel and dropping him over a minute off the lead.
This allowed Latvala to power to the front, taking advantage of third placed Paddon also hitting a rock in Jukojärvi and breaking his suspension. Paddon failed to make it out of the stage and retired.
Jukojärvi marked itself out as the downfall of the M-Sport team. In the same stage as Tänak damaged his Fiesta, Ogier broke his right-rear suspension by landing heavily after a jump, the damage spearing him into trees and forcing the Frenchman to retire on the spot.
Lappi had a slow start to the day, driving very cautiously through Halinen and going only 12th fastest, but quickly picked up the pace and charged to second overall. He won stages four through seven, gradually reducing Latvala’s lead down to 1.6 second after winning SS7.
Mads Østberg moved up to third on the final stage of the morning loop, leapfrogging both Craig Breen and Teemu Suninen, who currently occupy the rest of the top five.
Breen had been running in the podium places earlier, but noticed a significant shift in the behaviour of his car after a heavy landing through the Jukojärvi stage, and is looking to rediscover the feeling he had in the first morning stages.
“I had a big moment over a jump and something’s not right at the front of the car,” he explained at the end of the fourth stage. “I don’t know what it is, but I hope it’s not the suspension.”
Juho Hänninen ensured that all three Toyotas would finish the morning in the top six, holding a slim half-second lead over Kris Meeke, with Elfyn Evans clinging on to the rear of the main group in seventh place and 22.5 seconds off Latvala’s pace.
With Ogier out Thierry Neuville has been given a great opportunity to erase the four time world champion’s lead in the title race. He thus far has failed to capitalise on Ogier’s absence, languishing down in ninth place and complaining of “strange noises” coming from his Hyundai i20.
It was a miserable morning for the entire Hyundai camp, as Dani Sordo struggled all morning and finished the loop almost 20 seconds off his team-mate’s pace.
|1.||Jari-Matti Latvala||Toyota GAZOO Racing WRT||40:57.5|
|2.||Esapekka Lappi||Toyota GAZOO Racing WRT||+1.6|
|3.||Mads Østberg||M-Sport World Rally Team||+13.8|
|4.||Craig Breen||Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT||+14.2|
|5.||Teemu Suninen||M-Sport World Rally Team||+14.3|
|6.||Juho Hänninen||Toyota GAZOO Racing WRT||+19.7|
|7.||Kris Meeke||Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT||+20.2|
|8.||Elfyn Evans||M-Sport World Rally Team||+22.5|
|9.||Thierry Neuville||Hyundai Motorsport||+34.1|
|10.||Dani Sordo||Hyundai Motorsport||+51.5|