Sebastien Loeb continues to lead Rally Finland following the opening loop today, although Mikko Hirvonen has eaten into his team-mate's early advantage.

Loeb built a 7.7 second lead on Thursday, winning two of the day's three stages and he began this morning in similar style, setting the pace in SS4, the 12.75 km Urria stage and edging out Hirvonen by 0.3 seconds. However in SS5, the Frenchman was 3.2 seconds slower in his Citroen DS3 WRC car and he now heads back to service with his cushion cut to 4.4 seconds.

"I know that Mikko is very quick here and that he wasn't pushing at 100 per cent yesterday," Loeb said. "I think the rest of the day promises to be interesting - the Finns will start to push now. The game is on!"

Petter Solberg meanwhile has moved up from sixth overnight to third, although disappointingly he has lost further ground to the Citroens and is 12.3 seconds off the lead and 7.9 seconds off second.

"I made no mistakes and I'm happy to have moved up to third," said Solberg. "The car worked well and I'm planning a small change in service to try to improve performance further. The roads were quite rutted in places which made driving tricky, but I feel confident and I want to try to close on the two drivers ahead now."

Jari-Matti Latvala has dropped to fourth and he was frustrated with his performance in the sister works Ford Fiesta RS WRC car.

"The opening stage was OK, but I dropped time compared to my rivals in the next one," said the Finn. "I made some set-up changes overnight which improved my feeling with the car and I'm going to make some more here in service. I will revert to the set-up I used on the last round in New Zealand, which is close to what I have used so far but with a few small differences.

"I'm pushing hard but I need to relax and settle into the right rhythm and I'm sure my times will then improve. It's important to keep my driving clean and not push too hard so that I lose time by going sideways."

Behind, Mads Ostberg lies fifth in his Adapta WRT-run Fiesta RS WRC, 3.4 seconds off P4, followed by Citroen Junior WRT man, Thierry Neuville, another 3 seconds or so back.

"The car is perfect and I think my driving is pretty clean," Neuville commented. "I'm just going to have to push a bit harder though if I want to avoid dropping back."

Ott Tanak is seventh, with Chris Atkinson, Jari Ketomaa and Matti Rantanen rounding out the top-ten. Atkinson had intercom problems, while Ketomaa reported that his engine was misfiring in SS5.

"We were struggling a bit with the set-up on the first stage this morning [SS4]," Tanak said. "The car was too low at the back and it was touching the road a lot and killing the speed. But we made some adjustments and made the car a bit higher for the second one [SS5] and it was OK.

"The second stage was very loose and for sure at the moment we are not in the perfect position. But maybe if we get some rain this afternoon it will get better for us. We are not pushing, but the feeling is OK so we will see how this afternoon goes."

Tanak's team-mate, Evgeny Novikov was running ahead and in fifth until he rolled his Fiesta RS WRC 14.6 kilometres into SS5. He then limped to the end of the test and is now trying to make his way back to service.

"On the first stage [SS4] there was nothing special. We had a big jump over the crest with a heavy landing and Denis [Giraudet - my co-driver] hurt his back a bit, but he is OK. Then on the second stage [SS5] we were driving at the same speed. We were pushing on a very fast corner - I remember it well from the recce - but I was too fast. I put the car sideways and at the end of the corner we were half a metre short and I couldn't get the car straight," Novikov explained. "We rolled two times, but we will fight to keep going and I hope the car will be OK for the next loop."

As for the support categories, Esapekka Lappi continues to lead the SWRC - 13.8 seconds up on Hayden Paddon, who finished SS5 with his car running on three cylinders, while Elfyn Evans now enjoys a commanding lead in the WRC Academy after Alastair Fisher hit problems in SS5.

Rally Finland now continues with a loop of three stages, beginning at 11.28 hours local time [09.28 hours UK time] with the first run through the 11.38 km Mokkipera 1 test, SS6.

Rally Finland: Overall standings after Stage 5 (Top 10):

1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC 31mins 43.8secs M
2. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +00mins 04.4secs M
3. Petter Solberg Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 12.3secs M
4. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 12.4secs M
5. Mads Ostberg Adapta WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 15.8secs M
6. Thierry Neuville Citroen Junior WRT DS3 WRC +00mins 19.4secs M
7. Ott Tanak M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 36.3secs M
8. Chris Atkinson Qatar WRT Citroen DS3 WRC +00mins 39.6secs M
9. Jari Ketomaa Ford Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 56.4secs
10. Matti Rantanen Ford Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 14.0secs


11. Martin Prokop Ford Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 14.8secs
12. Sebastien Ogier VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +01mins 35.3secs
13. Esapekka Lappi Ford Fiesta S2000 +01mins 36.4secs S
14. Hayden Paddon Skoda Fabia S2000 +01mins 50.2secs S
15. Ken Block Monster WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +02mins 00.1secs
16. Andreas Mikkelsen VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +02mins 05.2secs
17. P-G Andersson Proton Satria Neo S2000 +02mins 07.1secs S

SWRC standings after Stage 5 - Top 3:

1. Esapekka Lappi Ford Fiesta S2000 33mins 20.2secs S
2. Hayden Paddon Skoda Fabia S2000 +00mins 13.8secs S
3. P-G Andersson Proton Satria Neo S2000 +00mins 30.7secs S

Notable retirements:


all times unofficial