Pärn set the fastest time on three of Thursday’s six tests to claim three Junior WRC Stage Points and return to service in Jyvasklya with a lead of just 1.7 seconds over Finland’s Andreas Amberg.
Amberg, in turn, is only 3.3 seconds clear of current championship leader Sweden’s Pontus Tidemand in third position. All are driving identical Hankook-shod, GEM-fuelled Ford Fiesta R2s.
“Today couldn’t have gone any better, but it is very close with the times,” said Parn. “The Himos 2 stage was very rough but I took the decision to keep up the speed and maybe that made the difference. I’m very happy because in Portugal and Greece I couldn’t show what I’m capable of but now I am.”
Amberg was satisfied to have set two fastest stage times - especially as he hadn’t yet driven at his maximum. “It was important to get to the end today still in touch. Tomorrow are more traditional Rally Finland stages – very long and really fast. It will be important not to make any mistakes,” he said.
Tidemand too said he had played it safe through the opening day’s rough and rutted stages. “I’ve held back a little bit,” he acknowledged. “I’m thinking of the championship of course and don’t want to do something that would put my lead in jeopardy. There’s still a long way to go before anything is decided.”
Canary Islander Yeray Lemes finished the day fourth, while Spain’s José Suárez, Tidemand’s main rival in the Junior WRC standings is fifth.
Niko Nieminen (FIN), Marius Aasen (NOR), Martin Koči (SVK) and Michael Burri (SUI) round off the Junior WRC runners.
Thursday brought disappointment for Turkey’s Murat Bostanci who, having set the early pace and picking up his first ever Junior WRC stage win on SS1, rolled out of contention on SS3, Koukunmaa. He hopes to rejoin the event on Friday, which features a further 148.5km of stages
Finland’s Junior WRC round, the third of six, will conclude on Saturday with another 65km of flat out driving which also includes the legendary 33km Ouninpohja stage.