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."