Jari-Matti Latvala has concluded the first full-day of Rally Finland at the head of the leaderboard, but Sebastien Ogier is right behind, only 2.6 seconds back.
Latvala took the lead this afternoon in SS8, winning three stages on the repeat loop, and then going second in the short Harju 2 super special – 0.5s behind Volkswagen team-mate Ogier.
“It really was great fun today,” said Latvala. “I am particularly pleased to have made peace with Ouninpohja. I have never driven as well here as I did today. As a Finn, this stage is very prestigious, just as it is to lead your home rally.
“However, we still have two long days ahead of us, and the routes will once again push us to the limit tomorrow. The key now is to keep our rhythm and a cool head.”
“I am very happy with my day here in Finland,” Ogier added. “The routes are fantastic, particularly Ouninpohja. This stage really is an experience and is probably the best special stage of the whole year. The speed, the many jumps and the rapid changes in direction make it feel like a rollercoaster ride. As a driver, you get one adrenalin rush after another over the entire 34.39 kilometres. It is just magnificent!
“Compliments to Jari-Matti, who has been impressive on home soil – as you would expect. If we are to beat him, Julien [Ingrassia – my co-driver] and I will have to push as hard as we can for the next two days.”
Citroen's Kris Meeke completes the provisional podium, 21.4s off Ogier and 10.1s up on team-mate Mads Ostberg in fourth.
“Not the perfect day and in Finland it doesn't need to be 99% or 99.5%, it needs to be 100% to get close. We had a little issue today, it turned out I could still drive the car but it wasn't perfect,” noted Meeke, who was also hit with a 10s penalty for being late to the SS9 time control.
“I made a slow start but after that it was much better,” Ostberg continued. “It has been a very enjoyable day but I've lost too much time to fight. I'll keep the pressure up now and see what happens.”
Thierry Neuville is next up in his Hyundai in fifth, but over a minute off the Citroens ahead, and only 2.7s up on team-mate Dani Sordo in P6.
“It has been a hard day but I think we have made some important improvements stage by stage,” said Neuville. “Our weekend got off to a bad start when we had a crash in Shakedown on Thursday morning. The team did a great job to fix the car but we had some work to do in the opening stages this morning. The pace notes were not really quick enough and we had to rebuild our confidence in the car.
“We found conditions to be better after lunch and we could go faster. We tried to push but we had a big moment in SS9 [Himos 2] and nearly rolled so we were lucky to make the end of the day. Our target is to get more confidence tomorrow and improve the performance level.”
“I didn't do this rally last year, so I have had to use today's stages to reacclimatise to the fast Finnish stages and to get a feeling from my Hyundai i20 WRC,” Sordo noted. “We did as much as we could but it was a difficult start. We felt the rear of the car move quite a lot at the beginning of Ouninpohja but once we were in the narrow sections it was a lot faster and more fun.
“We made some changes to the car and found some gains for the afternoon loop. In the repeat Päïjälä stage, we felt the car become very hot and it turned out we had an issue with the exhaust. We tried to fix it and could continue to set some decent times so to finish the day in sixth place is not so bad. There's room for improvement tomorrow.”
Juho Hanninen, Martin Prokop, Esapekka Lappi and Ott Tanak fill positions 7 through to 10, the latter compromised after hitting a rock and damaging the front-left damper in SS3.
“It's been tricky,” said Tanak, who had to limp through the rest of the tests as there was no mid-day service, only a regroup. “We really wanted to fight for it and it's been really tough to do it like this all day. We can fix it now though [in the end of day service] and go for a good run tomorrow. There is still a long way to go, and there is still a good chance of points so let's just see what tomorrow has to offer.”
In WRC2, Lappi took the lead in SS2 and hasn't looked back, winning seven of the day's nine tests in his Skoda Fabia R5. Pontus Tidemand holds second, 1m 8s back, with Stephane Lefebvre third.
“I am loving this Rally Finland! The day was simply perfect,” said Lappi. “However, we were once again provided with a perfect implement in the form of the Fabia R5. Janne [Ferm – my co-driver] and I are delighted to have been able to put on such a display in front of the many fans lining the route, and to lead the rally. However, we have not won anything yet – we must keep cool.”
As for retirements, Andreas Mikkelsen and Hayden Paddon both suffered big crashes, going off the road in SS5 and SS6 respectively. Neither will be able to re-start. Robert Kubica stopped before SS6 with alternator problems. He will re-join under Rally 2.
Rally Finland now continues on Saturday with four stages on the schedule – all to be run twice - and a total competitive distance of over 130 kilometres. SS11, the 13.84 km Mokkipera 1 test, is due to start tomorrow at 08.08 hours local time [06.08 hours UK time]. Full itinerary for round eight in WRC 2015 available - HERE
2015 Rally Finland: Overall standings after Stage 10 (Top 10):
1. Jari-Matti Latvala
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 1hr 16m 19.2s
2. Sebastien Ogier
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +0m 02.6s
3. Kris Meeke
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC +0m 24.0s
4. Mads Ostberg
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC +0m 34.1s
5. Thierry Neuville
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +1m 49.6s
6. Dani Sordo
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +1m 52.3s
7. Juho Hanninen
Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2m 22.5s
8. Martin Prokop
Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2m 46.6s
9. Esapekka Lappi
Skoda Fabia R5 +3m 18.5s
10. Ott Tanak
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +3m 30.2s
11. Pontus Tidemand
Skoda Fabia R5 +4m 26.5s
12. Stephane Lefebvre
Citroen DS 3 RRC +5m 00.4s
13. Lorenzo Bertelli
FWRT SRL Ford Fiesta RS WRC +5m 03.3s
14. Yuriy Protasov
Ford Fiesta RRC +6m 13.2s
15. Jarkko Nikara
Ford Fiesta R5 +6m 58.3s
18. Khalid Al Qassimi
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC +8m 03.0s
20. Elfyn Evans
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +10m 14.6s
WRC2 standings after Stage 10 (Top 3):
1. Esapekka Lappi
Skoda Fabia R5 1hr 19m 37.7s
2. Pontus Tidemand
Skoda Fabia R5 +1m 08.0s
3. Stephane Lefebvre
Citroen DS 3 RRC +1m 41.9s
SS5. Andreas Mikkelsen
Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC Crashed
SS5/6. Robert Kubica
Ford Fiesta RS WRC Mechanical
SS5/6. Craig Breen
Peugeot 208 T16 Engine
SS6. Hayden Paddon
Hyundai Motorsport N i20 WRC Crashed
*denotes will re-start on Saturday under Rally 2
M denotes Manufacturer entry
all times unofficial