Jari-Matti Latvala has emerged as the overall leader of Rally Finland after Day Two ahead of teammate Sebastien Ogier by 2.6 seconds, and Citroen’s Kris Meeke by 24 seconds.
The rally started in the afternoon of Thursday, where the drivers tackled a tricky wet asphalt Special Stage One. Conditions were slippery enough to prompt some drivers to try and get heat into their tyres off the line, with Dani Sordo looking like a shopping trolly as he pulled away to start the stage in his Hyundai i20. But as it was Ogier was the fastest from Meeke, Mikkelsen, Kubica, and Latvala.
That meant Ogier was the first out at the start of todays 9.01 mile Stage Two, tackling what looked like a very dusty surface. He completed the stage having set the fastest time, however Thierry Neuville crossed the line 17 seconds off the pace in the Hyundai, after he felt that he got hindered by drivers ahead of him cutting the corners and discarding stones and plastic over the racing line.
Haydon Paddon and Elyfan Evans finished the stage in a solid fourth and fifth place, behind Meeke who took the overall rally lead by a tenth of a second after setting a good time on yesterdays Super Special Stage.
Once we reached the famous Ouninpohja for Stage 4 Ogier still led from Latvala, the latter losing 2.5 seconds at the midpoint of the stage before regaining the ground towards the end of the stage. Latvala finished 1.1 seconds ahead of Ogier, taking the overall rally lead, and saying after the stage that he had the confidence to push on the roller coaster-style jumps and fast, sweeping corners.
Mads Ostberg meanwhile was 3 seconds adrift of Ogier at the end of the stage, clearing Mikkelsen by 13 seconds. Mikkelsen was running sixth overall when we reached Stage 5, however a huge crash midway through the stage put him out of action for the rest of the day. Neuville meanwhile was 25.8 seconds off the pace at the end of that stage, and 1 minute off overall after crashing in the Shakedown yesterday.
Elsewhere Elyfan Evans was lucky not to roll at the start of the stage after clipping a rock he described as being the largest in the world, which broke his rear suspension. That lost him a chunk of time throughout the rest of the day, finishing 20th 10 minutes off Latvala.
Teammate Ott Tanak damaged one of his dampers on the stage, although he was still able to finish fourth fastest on the stage and 10th overall at the end of the day. Kubica finished seventh overall after that stage, although he was forced to retire on his way to Stage 6 after his alternator failed after Stage 4. Kris Meeke also dropped from second to third overall with a broken driveshaft.
When we reached Stage 8, having encountered exhaust problems throughout Stage 7 Dani Sordo dropped behind Neuville by 3.5 seconds in 6th overall. The Spaniard managed to fix the exhaust problem, but it came loose again through Stage 9.
Latvala meanwhile increased his lead from Ogier through Stage 9, before going 0.5 seconds slower than Ogier on Stage 10. Overall however the Volkswagen driver is happy with the days work, particularly with his run through Ouninpohja.
Meanwhile Neuville finished saying he wasn’t comfortable throughout with the slippery conditions early on. “We struggled in the morning, but I didn’t feel comfortable in the slippery conditions,” said the Hyundai driver. “It felt better in the afternoon. Now we are ahead of Dani and we have a good fight ahead.”
Meeke meanwhile said: “For sure not the perfect day, and in Finland you have to be 100 per cent to get close. I did everything I could to get close.”
Tomorrow the drivers tackle Stages 11 through to 18.