Sebastien Ogier again proved to be the man to beat on Friday's opening loop of Rally Finland, winning three of the four tests in his Volkswagen Polo R WRC, while team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen had a big crash in SS5.
Ogier, who was quickest on Thursday evening in the 2.27km Harju super special, initially slipped to third this morning after he was 1.9s off the pace in SS2, the first test of the day. However, he soon re-took the lead in SS3 with the fastest time, before pulling ahead with two further quickest times in SS4 and SS5.
He now heads into the re-group – there is no mid-day service or even a remote service zone today – 5.3s up on team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala.
Meanwhile, Latvala reported a few moments in SS2 and SS3 and also lost a bit of time in SS5, when he slowed where Mikkelsen had gone off.
“Andreas accident slowed us a little bit, I took it carefully when I saw it,” Latvala confirmed. “We lost maybe half a second in there but it's better to be safe when the people are off the road, it's better for the safety of the crew and spectators.”
Kris Meeke lies third for Citroen in his DS 3 WRC and even led after SS2. He then remained in the thick of it, before dropping back a bit in SS4 and SS5 with a technical issue. He finished the loop 5.3s off Latvala and 12.5s up on team-mate, Mads Ostberg.
“There is something in the transmission - something isn't correct in the front transmission but it's not a driveshaft,” Meeke noted after SS5. “It's not as bad as I thought but you can't commit fully. Fingers crossed...”
Behind, Hayden Paddon again leads the way for Hyundai and is fifth overall, 6 seconds off Ostberg and generally happy with day so far: “I'm happy with the first two, not so much with Ouninpohja [SS4]. We made a few changes to the ride height and damper before this one [SS5] and I felt the car was a bit better. There are still a few things we can work on but it is a little better.”
Former F1 driver Robert Kubica completes the top six, but the Pole was slowed by several issues in his Fiesta RS WRC - including a faulty sensor in SS2, a puncture and a handbrake problem in SS3 and then alternator issues in SS4 and SS5.
Dani Sordo and Thierry Neuville are next up in sixth and seventh in their Hyundais, ahead of the returning Juho Hanninen – competing in a privately entered Fiesta RS WRC – and M-Sport's Ott Tanak. Tanak was third in the SS2, but then “fu**ed-up” in SS3, when he hit a rock and broke the front-left damper.
“A couple of kilometres before the end of the second stage [of the morning, SS3] I over-corrected one corner,” he explained. “It looked a bit tighter than what I had it down as in my notes and I got a bit too much sideways. I had 'don't cut' there because there was a big stone and we touched it with the inside of the wheel which damaged the damper.
“We were still able to limp through the following stages and that's all we can look to do this afternoon – try to limp through the day and limit the time loss as much as possible.”
Team-mate Elfyn Evans also had a bad morning and hit a rock, but in SS4, an impact that damaged the rear-right suspension on his Fiesta, dropping him from sixth overall post-SS3 to 15th post-SS5.
“I felt quite comfortable in the car over the first two stages [today, SSS2 and SS3]. We weren't taking any risks and it all felt fairly under control; but then at the start of the third one [SS4] I don't know what happened,” Evans admitted.
“We were running wide through a sequence of corners. Then we ran wide again and there was a huge stone on the exit of the corner which damaged the suspension arm. We kept going at a fairly high speed for a while but then something broke and we're struggling to continue.
“We'll give it a good go, but even if we make it back to service we're going to lose a huge amount of time!”
Of the rest, Martin Prokop lies just outside the top-ten in P11, with Esapekka Lappi 12th and leading the WRC2 class in his Skoda Fabia R5, 28.4s up on Jarkko Nikara. Pontus Tidemand is third in the principal support class.
In terms of retirements, as mentioned, Mikkelsen was the major casualty after going off the road in SS5. Mikkelsen and co-driver Ola Floene both escaped unharmed.
Rally Finland now continues this afternoon, with repeat runs through the opening four tests today and a second blast through the 2.27km Harju super special that kicked off proceeding's on Thursday night. SS6, the 14.51 km Pihlajakoski 2 test, is due to start at 14.28 hours local time [12.28 hours UK time].
Full itinerary for round eight in WRC 2015 available - HERE
2015 Rally Finland: Overall standings after Stage 5 (Top 10):
1. Sebastien Ogier
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 38m 27.9s
2. Jari-Matti Latvala
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +0m 05.3s
3. Kris Meeke
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC +0m 10.6s
4. Mads Ostberg
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC +0m 23.1s
5. Hayden Paddon
Hyundai Motorsport N i20 WRC +0m 29.1s
6. Robert Kubica
Ford Fiesta RS WRC +0m 56.9s
7. Dani Sordo
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +1m 07.3s
8. Thierry Neuville
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +1m 11.1s
9. Juho Hanninen
Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1m 21.0s
10. Ott Tanak
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1m 27.2s
11. Martin Prokop
Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1m 33.9s
12. Esapekka Lappi
Skoda Fabia R5 +1m 47.8s
13. Jarkko Nikara
Ford Fiesta R5 +2m 16.2s
14. Pontus Tidemand
Skoda Fabia R5 +2m 23.5s
15. Elfyn Evans
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2m 40.3s
16. Lorenzo Bertelli
FWRT SRL Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2m 41.4s
17. Stephane Lefebvre
Citroen DS 3 RRC +2m 44.6s
18. Craig Breen
Peugeot 208 T16 +2m 56.1s
24. Khalid Al Qassimi
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC +3m 56.5s
WRC2 standings after Stage 5 (Top 3):
1. Esapekka Lappi
Skoda Fabia R5 40m 15.7s
2. Jarkko Nikara
Ford Fiesta R5 +0m 28.4s
3. Pontus Tidemand
Skoda Fabia R5 +0m 35.7s
SS5. Andreas Mikkelsen
Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC Crashed
M denotes Manufacturer entry
all times unofficial