Junior debutant inspired by rally legend Loeb
Finland’s latest rising star breaks cover in WRC
The Frenchman, who has won two out of the three rounds this year, led by 1min 23.3sec from Ole Christian Veiby. Henri Haapamäki was third, a further 9.1sec back.
Finn Happamäki led after this morning’s opening stage but a puncture cost 2min 30sec. He then won six straight stages to fight back to third and will aim to pile the pressure on Gilbert during the remaining two days.
Fellow countryman Jari Huttunen, competing in the Junior WRC for the first time after being chosen as Future Rally Star of Finland 2015, was second before fading brakes sent him into a bank near the end of SS4.
He lost 3min 30sec, the margin by which he trailed Gilbert at the end of the day having recovered to fifth.
“The car was perfect and we took no risks,” said Gilbert. “It's easy to make a mistake in Finland - we saw that with some Juniors and also Andreas Mikkelsen and Hayden Paddon. Our aim for today was to stay in touch with the Finns so the situation is great. The Finns are not untouchable!”
Federico Della Casa was fourth with Jean-René Perry completing the top six behind Huttunen. All are in Citroën’s DS 3 R3-MAX cars.
Pierre-Louis Loubet retired after crashing, Dan McKenna stopped with an overheating engine, Matthieu Margaillan went off and Simone Tempestini, who claimed a stage win this morning, was also sidelined.