Loeb said before the start of the high-speed gravel event that he wouldn’t drive flat out in pursuit of a third Finland victory but instead produced a stunning time on Thursday’s final stage to edge ahead of his rivals.
Wilson, whose factory drivers Jari-Matti Latvala and Petter Solberg are third and sixth respectively starting the first of nine stages on Friday, said the fight for first place remained tightly poised.
“Yesterday was another mark of Sebastien’s superiority, he got his car by the scruff of the neck, set the pace and put an element of doubt in everyone’s mind,” said Wilson. “He pushed from the very start and got the leg up he needed but by no means is it over, there’s still a long way to go.”
Wilson added that his instruction to both of his works drivers before the start was to ensure they were within 10s of Loeb heading into Friday’s first full day of action. Latvala is 7.3s behind the Citroen start with Solberg 9.2s adrift. The Norwegian lost precious seconds on stage three when he lowered the set-up of his Fiesta RS WRC to the extent the handling became less precise in certain corners.
Friday’s action begins with the 12.75-kilometre Urria stage at 07:42hrs local time. Finnish veteran Sebastian Lindholm starts first on the road followed by the WRC Team MINI Portugal entries of Paulo Nobre and Armindo Araujo. Loeb goes 10th with Latvala 11th, Mikko Hirvonen 12th for Citroen and Solberg 13th.