Munchi's Ford 'guest' driver Matti Rantanen put in a brilliant drive to finish fifth on the Neste Oil Rally Finland on Sunday and notch up his best ever result in the World Rally Championship.

After taking an impressive seventh on his home rally last year, Rantanen had set the bar high, but prior to the event he said wanted to do even better this time out and he wasted no time in making his mark on the field.

Following a tenth place finish on the Super Special Stage at the Killeri trotting track on Thursday night the Finn put his local knowledge to good use to scythe through the field on the day one stages north-west of Jyv?skyl?. By the end of the first leg Rantanen had moved up to fifth overall with only the main championship protagonists in front of him.

His early stage times on Saturday morning were affected by a misfire at low revs as he dropped behind Henning Solberg, but this problem was fixed at the first service and by the end of the longest day the Finn had recovered to finish in the same position that he started.

With Sebastien Ogier pushing him for fifth place there was no let up on Sunday morning. A big moment on SS21 saw Rantanen caught out by a slow corner in another ultra-fast section of Finnish road, but again he recovered to take a four-second advantage into the final two stages.

With Ogier challenging hard, the Finn managed to cling on, holding a nerve-jangling 0.3 second advantage at the end with a stunning third place on SS23 Ruuhim?ki, the final stage of the rally.

"I'm very happy today, my result last year was great but this one really tops it," Rantanen reflected. "I started to think I should be closer to the top drivers but I have to remember that the four people above me are full-time professional rally drivers.

"The car that M-Sport provided for me has been fantastic and we hardly changed any settings all rally. I found it difficult on the second day and I felt we were a bit too sideways in some of the stages and lost some time on the loose gravel. But the fight with Ogier today was exciting and a really great feeling to come out on top."

Munchi's Ford regular Federico Villagra meanwhile picked up manufacturer points by finishing in eleventh.

Having sat out the high-speed tests of Rally Poland, 'Coyote' had an uphill struggle ahead of him to adapt to the ultra-fast Finnish roads after his last WRC outing on the Acropolis Rally, one of the slowest on the calendar.

With limited experience of the crests and corners of the Finnish stages the seven-time Argentine champion lacked the knowledge to push hard on the first pass of the stages, but was happier on the repeat runs.

In the end he was delighted to bring his car home - something he had only managed once before on the 1000 Lakes as he retired last year.

"This has been a very difficult rally but we are happy to finish with no problems and get another year's experience of competing here," Villagra stated. "Experience counts for a lot and when I made my pacenotes for this rally I thought they were fine. But the top drivers really know the lines here, especially over the crests, and I'm having to adjust to it a bit more. It's difficult to find the exact speed for the corners and I'm struggling more on the first pass with this.

"We came here from Rally Acropolis and it's a shame we didn't compete in Poland as it may have helped us to adjust to the high speeds. The car has been working well all weekend and it's also a real pleasure to compete on this rally; the stages are fantastic fun and very exciting."


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