Jari-Matti Latvala has increased his advantage on Rally Finland this afternoon stretching it from 8.4 seconds to 19.7.
Latvala began the day only 4.5 seconds up on Volkswagen team-mate Sebastien Ogier, but despite winning two stages this morning only eked out another 3.9 seconds. This afternoon however, he continued to push, winning three of the four 'proper' stages to more than double his cushion.
He will now go into day three on Saturday 19.7 seconds up on Kris Meeke, while Ogier is now third, 21.3 seconds off the lead.
“It's been a great day,” said Latvala, “the car has been working well. Myself and Miikka [Anttila – my co-driver] have been enjoying it. Seb [though] has not given up for sure.”
Speaking back in the end of day service, Latvala added: “My home rally is going pretty much perfectly so far – even though I have lost a bit of time here and there.
"My pace notes for the new special stages weren't quite right this morning, which resulted in a few minor errors – but nothing serious. And I attacked a little too much during some of the stages. So I took a different tack for the afternoon runs and just focused on the line, ignoring my team-mate Sébastien Ogier's time checks. And this approach really paid off.
“I'm enjoying every meter, I'm relaxed, and this is resulting in good stage times. I've now built up a bit of a buffer. Even so, we need to keep an eye on Sebastien and on Kris Meeke in the Citroen, as they're both performing strongly. It's shaping up to be an exciting three-way battle all the way to the finishing line.”
Meeke meanwhile moved in front of Ogier in SS11 and while the Briton did not win another test this afternoon, he still set some good times in his Citroen DS3 WRC – taking second in SS9 and SS10 and third in SS11.
“I'm very happy to end the day in second position," said Meeke. "This morning, I didn't know if I would be able to keep up the same pace on new roads and with new pace notes. I have to say that things went really very well, since we managed to get past the World Champion and the winner of last year's Rally Finland. Having said that, I'm still very focused, because it's not finished yet!”
Ogier was philosophical about the time lost this afternoon and attributed it the fact he was first on the road and was thus the principal road sweeper, meaning he was only fourth quickest in SS10 and fifth in SS11 and SS12. He did, however, still win SS9 and SS13 – the latter the short 2.27 km Harju super special.
“It has been a frustrating afternoon, but I'm quite happy. I'm happy I'm finished with the sweeping now. There is a long way to go, it will be the start of a new rally for me tomorrow,” noted the Frenchman.
“Today was a day of mixed feelings for me,” he continued. “On the one hand, the special stages are just brilliant, and as a driver you can't help but enjoy every kilometre as you hurtle through the forests at full speed. On the other hand, I did everything I could, the Polo R WRC was running like a dream and I'm more than happy with my performance – but even so, I didn't get a look-in today.
“My team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala did an excellent job in the cockpit today. But tomorrow's a new rally day for Julien [Ingrassia – my co-driver] and me, and we promise we'll put up a fight. No risk, no fun!”
Behind, Andreas Mikkelsen lies fourth in the VW Motorsport II Polo R WRC, 42.9 seconds off Ogier in P3 and just 1.2 seconds up on Citroen's Mads Osbterg in fifth. Mikko Hirvonen has dropped to sixth, 1.9 seconds further back, after he spun in SS10 and touched a post.
“I made a mistake today,” said the M-Sport WRT man. “We had a spin on SS10 which was a bit frustrating as we lost all of the advantage that we had gained over the guys behind. It was a silly mistake, but it happens sometimes. Everyone is so close to the limit here that it can happen and we were lucky that there was no damage to the car.
“I'm really looking forward to the fight over the next two days. For sure everyone is pushing hard and everyone is going to be fast, but there is still a long way to go. I feel confident and I enjoy these stages so I'm really looking forward to it.”
“On the whole, I'm happy with how today went,” Mikkelsen added. “The special stages went better for Ola [Floene – my co-driver] and me than the stages on Thursday and I'm delighted that I managed to make good one place in the course of the day. Once again, the Polo R WRC ran perfectly. We can push a little bit more on Saturday, I'm sure of that. And there will then be a fight for fourth place. It's going to be another exciting day in Rally Finland.”
Haydon Paddon remains seventh and is the lead Hyundai, albeit more than a minute further back, with Crash.net
columnist Elfyn Evans now eighth in his M-Sport WRT Fiesta RS WRC, ahead of Juho Hanninen and Craig Breen. Hanninen had been fourth until he rolled his Hyundai in SS6. He was then slowed by power steering problems this afternoon.
“We have had a bit of a turbulent day today, really,” Hanninen noted. “We started off very strongly with a competitive stage, just a fraction off the pace, but then in stage six we ran into trouble. We picked up a puncture and rolled the car. Thankfully we were able to continue but we lost over a minute. During the afternoon, we then experienced some power steering issues, particularly in the ruts and jumps, but we are fighting back and I am determined to finish the final two days strongly.”
“It's been an OK day,” added Evans. “We haven't taken any big risks. We've just tried to drive cleanly and stay out of trouble which I think we have managed to do so that's a good foundation to build on tomorrow.
“I feel as though there is a massive improvement from yesterday but there are obviously areas where we could still go faster. You have to be super confident to set the fast times here. We weren't quite ready to take the necessary risks today, but let's see where we are tomorrow.”
In WRC2, Jari Ketomaa remains comfortably ahead of Karl Kruuda. The margin up from 35 seconds last night to 42 seconds going into service D tonight. Sebastien Chardonnet is now third, over a minute off Kruuda. Eyvind Brynildsen has slipped from third in class last night to sixth after propshaft issues slowed him in SS7 and SS8 this morning.
In terms of retirements today, Robert Kubica, Thierry Neuville and Martin Prokop were the big name casualties. Kubica went off the road in SS5. He will re-start on Saturday under Rally 2. Neuville damaged his Hyundai in the same test and while he got it to the mid-day service he was unable to go any further when it was found the impact in SS5 had damaged the rollcage, putting him out completely. Prokop crashed in SS11.
Rally Finland now continues on Saturday with five stages on the bill, all to be run twice.
SS14, the 13.84 km Mokkipera 1 test, is due to start at 08.08 hours local time [06.08 hours UK time].
Rally Finland: Overall standings after Stage 13 (Top 10):
1. Jari-Matti Latvala
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 1hour 34mins 42.4secs
2. Kris Meeke
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +00m 19.7s
3. Sebastien Ogier
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +00m 21.3s
4. Andreas Mikkelsen
Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC +01m 04.2s
5. Mads Ostberg
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +01m 05.4s
6. Mikko Hirvonen
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +01m 07.3s
7. Hayden Paddon
Hyundai Motorsport N i20 WRC +02m 11.6s
8. Elfyn Evans
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +02m 39.4s
9. Juho Hanninen
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +02m 51.1s
10. Craig Breen
Ford Fiesta RS WRC +05m 19.1s
11. Jari Ketomaa
Drive DMACK Ford Fiesta R5 +06m 2.8s
12. Henning Solberg
Ford Fiesta RS WRC +06m 51.9s
13. Karl Kruuda
Ford Fiesta S2000 +07m 42.8s
14. Sebastien Chardonnet
Citroen DS3 R5 +08m 26.5s
WRC2 standings after Stage 13 (Top 3):
1. Jari Ketomaa
Drive DMACK Ford Fiesta R5 1hour 41mins 25.2s
2. Karl Kruuda
Ford Fiesta S2000 +00m 42.0s
3. Sebastien Chardonnet
Citroen DS3 R5 +01m 43.7s
SS3. Jarkko Nikara
Ford Fiesta RS WRC Went off the road
SS5. Robert Kubica
RK M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC Went off the road
SS9. Thierry Neuville
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC Accident
SS11. Martin Prokop
Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC Lost a wheel
M denotes Manufacturer entry
all times unofficial