Ott Tänak leads Neste Rally Finland by just 5.8s after the first full day of action ahead of Mads Østberg and Jari Matti-Latvala.
The battle at the top saw twists and turns across Friday’s 10 stages, with the pair trading both fastest stage times as well as the overall lead.
But it was Toyota driver Tänak who went into the end of Friday’s action in front, despite suffering from a poor road position. The Estonian said on his day’s performance: “I did everything I could, our start position was not in our favour so I had to take the maximum available to get the best start position I could for tomorrow. It will be a much fairer fight tomorrow now we are closer to the other guys.”
Behind Østberg in the redeveloped Citroen C3 WRC is the second Toyota of Latvala and the Finn took a cautious bus consistent approach across Friday’s stages on his home event. He lies 17.3s adrift of the Norwegian.
Fourth is the leading Hyundai of Hayden Paddon after both championship leader Thierry Neuville and teammate Andreas Mikkelsen both hit problems.
Neuville was another man to suffer from having to run at the front of the field on the road along with title rival Sebastien Ogier and the Belgian’s day was made worse after he made a mistake at a junction on stage five, clipping a tree and costing him about 25 seconds. Mikkelsen rolled his i20 WRC on stage four, costing the Norwegian over three minutes in dropped time.
Teemu Suninen is fifth overall and sits in front of teammates Ogier and Elfyn Evans in an M-Sport Ford trio. Ogier will be hoping for a stronger set of stage times tomorrow as the running order on the road gets reversed.
Behind Evans in eighth is the third Toyota of Esapekka Lappi who suffered differential problems throughout Friday afternoon. Craig Breen survived a puncture and fuel pressure issue to lie ninth going into Saturday with Mikkelsen rounding out the top 10 overall. Kalle Rovanperä leads WRC2 by 32s over Eerik Pietarinen and Kern Torn has a 21.7s advantage over Emil Bergkvist in the FIA Junior World Rally Championship.
Neste Rally Finland continues tomorrow with a further eight stages.