Loeb, who heads the Citroen Total World Rally Team and holds a comfortable advantage in the WRC drivers’ standings, said uncertainty over the weather had resulted in him opting for what he described as a “safe choice”.
“It was very difficult to choose,” said the eight-time world champion, who earned the right to select his starting position first after he went fastest on the Qualifying Stage earlier today. “We know if it’s dry it’s better to be behind and if it’s wet it’s better to be in front. We don’t know exactly for the weather so we choose in the middle because we expect some rain in some moments but not always. Finally [my main rivals] are doing nearly all the same and after 10 cars there shouldn’t be a big difference so we should nearly be all equal.”
Finnish hero Jari-Matti Latvala has opted to start 11th on Thursday’s opening trio of stages in his works Ford Fiesta RS WRC.
“Normally you would want to be close to the top four but the problem is the stages around Lahti will be very dry and you could easily lose 10 or 15 seconds,” said Latvala. “With the cars now so equal it would be very difficult to make up that time. We did a risky game in New Zealand but that did not work so here we wanted to play safe.”
Mikko Hirvonen will line up in 12th in the second factory Citroen with Petter Solberg one place behind for the factory Ford team. Evgeny Novikov will start 14th with Mads Ostberg 15th, Thierry Neuville 16th and Chris Atkinson 17th.
Sebastian Lindholm, competing on his first world championship rally since 2007, will go first on the road followed by WRC Team MINI Portugal duo Paolo Nobre and Armindo Araujo. Monster World Rally Team’s Ken Block has selected fourth spot with World Rally Car newcomer Riku Tahko fifth. However, event stewards reserve the right to adjust the starting order on grounds of safety.
The opening stage, Koukunmaa, gets underway at 17:23hrs local time on Thursday.
The top 17 starters are as follows:*
1 Sebastian Lindholm (Ford Fiesta RS WRC)
2 Paolo Nobre (MINI John Cooper Works WRC)
3 Armindo Araujo (MINI John Cooper Works WRC)
4 Ken Block (Ford Fiesta RS WRC)
5 Riku Tahko (MINI John Cooper Works WRC)
6 Martin Prokop (Ford Fiesta RS WRC)
7 Matti Rantanen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC)
8 Jari Ketomaa (Ford Fiesta RS WRC)
9 Ott Tanak (Ford Fiesta RS WRC)
10 Sebastien Loeb (Citroen DS3 WRC)
11 Jari-Matti Latvala (Ford Fiesta RS WRC)
12 Mikko Hirvonen (Citroen DS3 WRC)
13 Petter Solberg (Ford Fiesta RS WRC)
14 Evgeny Novikov (Ford Fiesta RS WRC)
15 Mads Ostberg (Ford Fiesta RS WRC)
16 Thierry Neuville (Citroen DS3 WRC)
17 Chris Atkinson (Citroen DS3 WRC)
* Subject to final confirmation