World Rally Championship leader Sebastien Ogier continues on course for his fifth win of the season for Volkswagen Motorsport Polo, as he spent the morning on the final day of the Neste Oil Rally Finland focusing on maintaining his 30 second lead over the rest of the field.

Ogier started the day with a relatively leisurely stroll around the 14.95km Surkee 1 SS16 and he set only the fifth fastest time, dropping five and a half seconds to stage winner Mads Ostberg in the Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS.

"I took a bit of time to start my day," Ogier admitted after the run. "The first one I prefer to start like that, then I will increase the rhythm," h said, before adding: "Of course my only stage to push on today is Ouninpohja, the others I just drive through."

He picked up the pace and was third-fastest in the 9.65km Leustu 1 which was topped by Thierry Neuville, as he and Ostberg laid down their respective gauntlets earlier on in the battle for second place in the rally behind Ogier. But when it came to the first run of the day through the famous Ouninpohja 1 it was Ogier back on top again, although his advantage at the top of the times was just 2.6 seconds after the full 33km stage.

Citroen's Mikko Hirvonen had narrowly edged Neuville for second spot through SS18, while Ostberg lost two and a half seconds on Neuville through Ouninpohja which dropped him back behind the Belgian into third place in the overall standings. Ostberg set that to rights in the final stage of the day when he won Painaa 1 by more than three seconds from Neuville.

"I hope I'm pushing hard enough," said Ostberg after the end of the morning's action. "It's a quite good stage this one, it's difficult to know from stage to stage how hard to push, but this one I think we did quite well."

"Mads set a good time on that stage," admitted Neuville.

While the two are engaged in their fierce in-house rivalry, Mikko Hirvonen is running a safe but rather lonely fourth place almost another half a minute back. He reported no dramas during the morning stages as he worked his way through.

"No problems. We had to be a little bit careful with the slippery stage but all good," he said. "The boys are having a big fight in the front. We will try.

He was still pushing when it came to SS19 but was only able to manage third place in the stage's times. "There are a couple of places that were not perfect - to make the fastest time you need to be perfect," he explained. "It's sliding a little bit too much."

Hirvonen is still well ahead of fellow Citroen man Kris Meeke, who benefited overnight from the stewards ruling that he had been impeded by Evgeny Novikov in the first run through Palsankyla on Friday morning. The stewards credited Meeke with his afternoon time for both runs through the stage, which improved the British driver's overall time by 23.7s to make up for the incident.

"The stewards decision? I think it's the right decision. Yesterday is yesterday and today is today," he said, even though the boost to his time hadn't helped him improve his position and he'd promptly handed back a portion of that time with a spin on the first stage of the day.

"I did a full 360 on the last junction and then had to turn around," he revealed. "I lost about 10 seconds. We're under no pressure this morning but a small mistake.

"I'm taking it quite steady. I'm not going to try to battle Mikko today, I'm going to play the clever game," he said following that early scare. Even so, he was still utterly exhilarated with his first time through through Ouninpohja in a WRC Citroen.

"That's my first time in there in seven years, my first time in a World Rally car. That was the best 15:42.5 in my life - except for my wedding!" he laughed. "You are sitting in the front seat of a roller coaster with a throttle to control the speed. If you get it wrong it's big. I always dreamt of Finland in a World Rally car. To come here in a Citroen is amazing."

Meeke finished the famous stage in fifth position, after being allowed to change a wheel before he started as a precaution after he reported a vibration from earlier hitting a rock. He was just faster than Jari-Matti Latvala, who is up to 30th position overall having restarted on Friday under Rally 2 rules following his retirement on day 1 with suspension damage after hitting a rock on SS2.

"I was trying to be a bit more precise," Latvala explained of his Saturday morning effort. "I'll see how it goes with this driving style. I realised that I need more kilometres in the car and try to improve for next year."

Latvala is still only in 30th position overall heading into the final afternoon in Finland. In the top ten positions the times are spread out and bar any late accidents and incidents holding drivers up the positions appear fairly fixed, with MINI John Cooper Works Jarkko Nikara behind Meeke in sixth followed by Citroen's Dani Sordo and Ostberg's Qatar M-Sport world rally team mate Evgeny Novikov in eighth.

The final positions in the top ten currently go to the leading WRC2 drivers, Jari Ketomaa in the Ford Fiesta R5 ahead of Citroen DS3 RRC driver Robert Kubica by over a minute and a half.

"Everything is perfect. The conditions are perfect, the stage is very beautiful. It is a bit slippery but very nice," Ketomaa reported first thing. "Last year we were struggling a lot as we had tyres that were not good enough for this type of road."

Kubica meanwhile was concerned about a heavy landing in the final stage of the morning: "We landed on the nose quite hard," he said. "We drive very carefully, I don't know these stages.

"It's a difficult day as we have to take care of the class. The stages are quite nice but we have to drive quite carefully," he said, adding that it meant he hadn't been able to properly allow the run through Ouninpohja to sink in. "It's a wonderful stage but we cannot enjoy it fully as we have to keep our position."

Despite a first-stage scare on Saturday with a loose electrical connection in his engine, Keith Cronin continues to lead the WRC3 battle by over a minute from Sebastien Chardonnet, while Jussi Vainionpaa is over 40 seconds further back. The JWRC lead was still firmly in the hands of Andreas Amberg who has more than two seconds in hand over Sander Parn and Pontus Tidemand.

Rally Finland: Standings after SS19

Top ten overall standings

1. Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 2hrs 11m 11.5s M
2. Mads Ostberg Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +00m 31.5s M
3. Thierry Neuville Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +00m 34.3s M
4. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +00m 59.7s M
5. Kris Meeke Abu Dhabi Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +01m 39.9s M
6. Jarkko Nikara MINI John Cooper Works WRC +03m 03.1s
7. Dani Sordo Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +04m 41.0s M
8. Evgeny Novikov Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +07m 52.2s M
9. Jari Ketomaa Ford Fiesta R5 +08m 23.2s WRC2
10. Robert Kubica Citroen DS3 RRC +09m 57.0s WRC2

Selected others

11. PG Andersson Ford Fiesta RS WRC +10m 45.1s
12. Hayden Paddon Skoda Fabia S2000 +11m 29.s WRC2
15. Andreas Mikkelsen Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC +12m 56.5s M
30. Jari-Matti Latvala Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +21m 18.8s M

Top three WRC2 standings

1. Jari Ketomaa Ford Fiesta R5 2hrs 19m 34.7s WRC2
2. Robert Kubica Citroen DS3 RRC +01m 33.8s WRC2
3. Hayden Paddon Skoda Fabia S2000 +03m 05.8s WRC2

Top three WRC3 standings

1. Keith Cronin Citroen DS3 R3T 2hrs 29m 55.8s WRC3
2. Sebastien Chardonnet Citroen DS3 R3T +01m 10.2s WRC3
3. Jussi Vainionpaa Citroen DS3 R3T +01m 51.9s WRC3

Top three JWRC standings

1. Andreas Amberg Ford Fiesta R2 2hrs 34m 51.9s JWRC
2. Sander Parn Ford Fiesta R2 +02m 24.6s JWRC
3. Pontus Tidemand Ford Fiesta R2 +02m 52.5s JWRC

Notable retirements:

Martin Prokop Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC engine M after SS12 Alistair Fisher Citroen DS3 R3T mechanical WRC3 after SS8 Elfyn Evans Ford Fiesta R5 mechanical WRC2 after SS10

all times unofficial

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