Finland WRC: Latvala leads, top four split by 2.6s
Toyota WRC driver Jari-Matti Latvala has moved into the lead of Rally Finland after an ultra-close Friday afternoon loop that left the top four split by just 2.6 seconds.
Latvala overturned his teammate Ott Tanak’s 5.4s morning advantage with the fastest time on the second pass of Moksi to open up a slender 0.4s lead after the 12.45-mile-long test.
A further two stage wins, on SS9 (Asamaki) and SS10 (Aanekoski) enabled the three-time event winner to build a two-second lead over Kris Meeke, which was marginally reduced after the Harju street stage.
Meeke and Esapekka Lappi also took chunks out of Tanak despite the road conditions worsening with each passing car. The pair set identical times on SS7 and were evenly matched on the following Urria test, which meant all three were tied for second, just 0.6s behind Latvala.
An “apprehensive” run on SS8 cost Meeke time to Lappi but the 2016 winner moved back ahead of the Finn on the penultimate stage after setting the same time as Latvala. He is now just 1.2s behind his teammate, with the same margin back to Lappi heading into day two.
First on the road meant Tanak suffered the most from the increasingly rutted sections of the stages, with the championship leader later dropping behind Meeke and Lappi.
WRC returnee Craig Breen put a loose bonnet pin issue aside to maintain fifth place over Hyundai stabelmate Andreas Mikkelsen by just 0.4s.
Overhauling Sebastien Ogier on the opening stage of the afternoon, Mikkelsen was fastest on SS8 (Urria 2) before outpacing Breen by four tenths in the final two tests. Breen had dropped 1.4s on SS7 with his bonnet partially restricting his visibility but fought back to remain fractionally ahead.
Thierry Neuville endured a frustrating day in his Hyundai i20, struggling with set-up issues in the morning and, despite setting better times in the afternoon, remains somewhat adrift of Ogier in front of him and 30.9 seconds off Latvala.
M-Sport's Friday struggles continued with Teemu Suninen and Gus Greensmith rounding out the top 10, the former slipping to nearly a minute off the overall pace of Latvala.
In the WRC2 Pro class, Kalle Rovanpera remains the driver to beat out front in his Skoda Fabia R5; the Finn was fastest on each of the afternoon stages and has a comfortable 2m15.1s lead over Eric Camilli’s Ford Fiesta R5.
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