for Rally Finland leaderboard after day 1, SS12
Kris Meeke continues to lead Rally Finland following Friday's second loop having more or less maintained his advantage over Jari-Matti Latvala, while Sebastien Ogier lost over 15 minutes after an off.
Meeke won two of the five tests this morning to build an 18.8sec lead in his Abu Dhabi WRT Citroen DS3 WRC.
The Ulsterman then proceeded to 'manage' the gap in the afternoon, winning two more stages, as well as going second in SS10 and third in SS9, to head into the overnight halt in Jyvaskyla with a 18.1sec margin.
“We've just tried to manage the car and keep the commitment up,” Meeke confirmed after SS11. “At the moment we can manage the gap but there will be a huge challenge tomorrow. For now it feels nice.”
“It's been a really good day,” he added after the short Harju 2 SSS. “You are never comfortable when Jari-Matti is behind you. We'll see what happens tomorrow. Tomorrow is a huge challenge and we'll just keep trying.”
Meanwhile, Latvala continued to push until Volkswagen team-mate Sebastien Ogier got stuck in a ditch in Surkee 2. The Frenchman lost considerable time and now drops well down the order.
“We lost a lot of time because there were not many spectators to help us out. It was a stupid mistake,” Ogier said.
Ogier's error left Latvala with a bit of a conundrum: “Things have changed since Seb had his problem. I have to consider this and the Manufacturers' championship. I'm not sure how hard I can chase now - I haven't spoken yet to [team boss] Jost [Capito],” Latvala explained post-SS11.
Behind, Thierry Neuville holds third in his Hyundai, albeit 26.2secs off Latvala, and only 1.1secs up on VW Motorsport II pilot Andreas Mikkelsen. Mikkelsen in turn is just 8.4secs up on Craig Breen, who himself is only 4.4secs ahead of Hayden Paddon.
“It's been a day of two halves, really,” said Neuville. “In this morning's first loop, we were pushing to the maximum but we weren't really seeing the results on the timesheets. The car felt OK but we just struggled to find any traction.
“This afternoon we took the same approach. We got everything we could out of the car and the results were a bit better. It seems the morning loop doesn't suit our settings so we will have to be aggressive first thing tomorrow.
“Still, I am pleased we are holding third position at the end of this first day. We know how unforgiving the rally is, and there's a long way to go, but we're there or thereabouts. We'll try to make some improvements to the car ahead of tomorrow's stages.”
Mads Ostberg rounds out the top-seven – at the tail end of that fight and only 4.7secs further back – with Ott Tanak eighth.
Tanak was battling right at the front this morning, before losing time with a suspension issue in SS5. The DMACK WRT man then went quickest in SS7 and SS9 this afternoon hauling himself back from P10 to P7 before losing out again in Surkee, but this time with a front right puncture.
“It was a mixed day,” Tanak summarised. “We are motivated, however, as we have the speed. We look forward to tomorrow now.”
Further back, Eric Camilli holds ninth with WRC2 class leader Esapekka Lappi tenth, 4.2secs ahead of Kevin Abbring, who is standing in for the injured Dani Sordo. Lappi's closest class rival, Teemu Suninen is 12th, 42.5secs back.
Rally Finland now continues on Saturday with 150.82 competitive kilometres on the bill. A loop of four stages – including the legendary Ouninpohja - will be repeated with one run in the morning and one in the afternoon.
SS13, the first-run through the 33km Ouninpohja test, is due to start at 08.08 hours local time [06.08 hours UK time].