Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle moved into second position in the overall standings at Rally Finland during Friday’s long leg.
On mostly new stages, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team crews produced some fine performances. In the other DS3 WRC, Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson leapt up the standings from seventh to fifth position.
After a long prologue over close to sixty kilometres, Friday’s leg featured nine stages in total. The crews set off in the same order as the World Championship standings.
Lying third as the action got underway this morning, Kris Meeke set off at the same pace as on day one. After a stage win on Kakaristo 1 (SS7) and an impressive series of performances, he managed to move ahead of Sébastien Ogier into second place, whilst remaining in touch with the overall leader, Jari-Matti Latvala.
Meanwhile, Mads Østberg first of all got the better of Juho Hänninen in the morning, before entering into a three-way scrap for fourth. He ended the day fifth overall, just 1.2 seconds adrift of fourth-placed Andreas Mikkelsen but ahead of Mikko Hirvonen in sixth.
In the WRC2, Sébastien Chardonnet and Thibault De la Haye recorded the first stage win of a Citroën DS3 R5 in the category, returning to Jyväskylä this evening in third place.
Leader since the start of the rally, Martin Koci controlled from the front in the Junior WRC. Simone Tempestini and Quentin Giordano completed the top three of Citroën DS3 R3s.
Saturday’s leg features ten stages, over 130 kilometres, on some of Rally Finland’s best-known roads. The cars are due to leave parc ferme at 7.00am, returning to the service park at 1.57pm and concluding the leg at 9.51pm.
Kris Meeke: “I’m very happy to end the day in second position. 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!”
Mads Østberg: “I tried to start from scratch, to get back on the pace this morning. It worked very well. I must admit it’s a lot more fun to have a specific target on this kind of rally. We’re fighting for fourth with Andreas Mikkelsen and Mikko Hirvonen. Tomorrow, we’ll have to push from the word go and just got for it, no questions asked. Last year, I set some good times on these stages, so that augurs well…”
Marek Nawarecki (Citroën Racing Deputy Team Principal): “Kris has had a remarkable day. His aim was to stay in touch with the leaders. But he has done even better than that in getting past Sébastien Ogier. His incredibly consistent speed and his efficient driving show that he is capable of making the most of his potential. As for Mads, he gradually upped his pace without panicking. He is in confident mood now and has got himself into a real scrap for fourth position. There is still a long way to go in the rally. Anything can happen!”
HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDEDSS1 – Lankamaa 1 (23.44km) – In the rain, Jari-Matti Latvala grabbed first place overall ahead of Kris Meeke and Sébastien Ogier. Mads Østberg finished sixth.
SS2 – Jouhtikylä (10.36km) – The earlier rain had the dampened the region’s dusty gravel roads, providing ideal conditions. On this stage, back on the itinerary after a 22-year absence, Jari-Matti Latvala consolidated his lead, ahead of Sébastien Ogier. Kris Meeke grabbed the fourth fastest time, whilst Mads Østberg was seventh.
SS3 – Lankamaa 2 (23.44km) – Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala tied for the stage win, just ahead of Kris Meeke. Still looking for the right set-up, Mads Østberg had to be content with sixth position.
SS4 – Harju 1 (2.27km) – Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala finished ahead of Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg on the spectacular street stage. Kris ended the day in third overall, whilst Mads was in seventh position.
SS5 – Pihlajakoski 1 (14.51km) – Jari-Matti Latvala started the third section with another stage win. Kris Meeke defended his position with the fifth fastest time, whilst Mads Østberg lost 11 seconds as he finished the test in tenth. Robert Kubica went off.
SS6 – Päijälä 1 (23.38km) – Another stage win for Jari-Matti Latvala, trailed by Ogier and Meeke. The top three in the overall standings extended their lead over the rest of the field. Fifth on this stage, Mads Østberg moved up to sixth overall after Juho Hänninen rolled his car.
SS7 – Kakaristo 1 (20.51km) – Kris Meeke set the fastest time on Kakaristo. This was his fourth stage win in the World Championship and the first on stage over ten kilometres long. He therefore closed the gap to second place, held by Sébastien Ogier.
SS8 – Painaa 1 (7.70km) – Before heading back for the midday service, Sébastien Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala, Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg formed a tightly-bunched leading quartet, with just 1.3 seconds covering them. The rally was over for Thierry Neuville, who damaged his car’s roll cage after crashing this morning.
SS9 – Pihlajakoski 2 (14.51km) – The duel continued between Ogier and Meeke. The Frenchman finished ahead of the Briton by a tenth of a second. Mads Østberg moved up to fifth position, ahead of fellow countryman Andreas Mikkelsen.
SS10 – Päijälä 2 (23.38km) – Second-fastest time for Kris Meeke, two seconds behind Jari-Matti Latvala. Mads Østberg continued to move up the standings, sneaking ahead of Mikko Hirvonen to take fourth place. Henning Solberg picked up a puncture.
SS11 – Kakaristo 2 (20.51km) – Kris Meeke moved into second place overall after getting past Sébastien Ogier. Mads Østberg found himself in a three-way battle with Andreas Mikkelsen and Mikko Hirvonen. Henning Solberg collected a puncture for the second stage running.
SS12 – Painaa 2 (7.70km) – Jari-Matti Latvala won the stage, ahead of Mads Østberg, Mikko Hirvonen and Kris Meeke.
SS13 – Harju 2 (2.27km) – The day’s final stage enabled the crews to consolidate their positions. The fastest time went to Sébastien Ogier, whilst Kris Meeke remained second overall and Mads Østberg ended the day in fifth place.
STANDINGS AFTER DAY 21. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 1:34:42.42. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroën DS3 WRC) +19.73. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +21.34. Andreas Mikkelsen / Ola Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +1:04.25. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1:05.46. Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:07.37. Hayden Paddon / John Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:11.68. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +2:39.49. Juho Hänninen / Tomi Tuominen (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:51.110. Craig Breen / Scott Martin (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +5:19.1…
Jari-Matti Latvala, 8 (including 1 tied) – Sébastien Ogier, 5 (including 1 tied) – Kris Meeke, 1.
SS1 to SS13: Jari-Matti Latvala