Citroen's Mads Ostberg led the way on Thursday morning in the shakedown for Rally Finland, but Thierry Neuville failed to set a time after a big off.
Neuville crashed out near the end of his first run through the 4.62km Ruuhimaki test, felling a tree in the process. Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul both escaped unharmed, but their Hyundai i20 WRC suffered pretty heavy damage to the rear. It is now back in service with the team busy making repairs, in the hope of making the start this evening.
“It was quite a huge off. I arrived at the corner at about 160kph and went off at about 80kph. There was no escape because the trees were very close to the road,” Neuville told the official WRC site.
“The grip was much less than I expected. I saw the braking lines from the other boys and tried to adapt. But I was too far off line and with the camber of the road I couldn't take the apex and went straight off. I pulled the handbrake to try to go backwards into the trees. It's a fifth gear left corner but I came in sixth. Straight away from starting to brake it was full lock with the steering but I couldn't get round.”
Meanwhile, Ostberg posted the quickest time – a 2m 13.3s – on his fourth and final run, leaving him 0.4s up on Andreas Mikkelsen, who in turn was just 0.1s up on former F1 driver, Robert Kubica.
“I had a very good feeling in the car,” said Ostberg. “The DS 3 WRC seemed very fast during our tests. I'm pleased to see that it is still the case when we are competing against our rivals.
"The set-up gave me the confidence to push and we had the time to focus on the driving. We have to keep it up throughout the weekend.”
“The shakedown was a good start to the Rally Finland since the stage was typical of what we can expect in the coming days,” Mikkelsen added. “We did a lot of work on the set-up.
"We didn't have a perfect pass, but we are happy with second place. The Polo R WRC definitely feels right – bring on Rally Finland!”
Jari-Matti Latvala was next up in fourth, ahead of Sebastien Ogier, who had a big scare on his first pass: “The shakedown was more difficult than expected,” Ogier admitted. “I had thought that the grip would be better due to the heavy rain the day before. But it was still pretty slippery with a lot of loose gravel. The first pass almost ended badly for Julien [Ingrassia] and me. We came off the track and narrowly avoided having an accident. That was a real wake-up call.
“Later on, the track was slightly better in terms of grip,” he added. “We are definitely extremely motivated to [still] drive for the win here. Finland is one of my favourite rallies of all time – from the first time I ever drove a rally car here!”
Further back Ott Tanak was sixth, with Kris Meeke, Hayden Paddon, Elfyn Evans and Dani Sordo filling positions 7 through to 10.
Rally Finland now begins this evening with SS1, the short 2.27km Harju 1 super special, at 19.00 hours local time. The rally then gets underway 'proper' on Friday, with nine stages on the bill and a total competitive distance of over 150 kilometres. Full itinerary for round eight in WRC 2015 available - HERE
2015 Rally Finland: Shakedown times (Top 10):
1. Mads Ostberg
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC 2m 13.3s
2. Andreas Mikkelsen
Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC 2m 13.7s
3. Robert Kubica
Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2m 13.8s
4. Jari-Matti Latvala
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 2m 14.0s
5. Sebastien Ogier
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 2m 14.1s
6. Ott Tanak
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2m 14.6s
7. Kris Meeke
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC 2m 15.1s
8. Hayden Paddon
Hyundai Motorsport N i20 WRC 2m 15.7s
9. Elfyn Evans
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2m 16.3s
10. Dani Sordo
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC 2m 17.0s
11. Martin Prokop
Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2m 47.5s
12. Juho Hanninen
Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2m 19.3s
13. Lorenzo Bertelli
FWRT SRL Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2m 20.6s
DNS Thierry Neuville
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC Crashed – did not set a time
M denotes Manufacturer entry
all times unofficial