Wednesday | 05 Aug 2015

Finland driver report: Part one

We take a look at how the top drivers fared on Neste Oil Rally Finland in the first of our two-part summary.

Andreas Mikkelsen (Volkswagen Polo R)
The Norwegian [above] got off to a cautious start and was in sixth place, and in the process of increasing his attack, when he pushed too hard and rolled heavily on the Himos stage (SS5). Mikkelsen put the crash down to an over optimistic pace note. And that was it. From the state of the Polo R it was no surprise that he couldn't restart on Saturday. The no-score also cost him second place in the drivers' championship.

Elfyn Evans (Ford Fiesta RS)
Experience counts in Finland and Evans knows that. So when his chance of a good result ended with a rock strike on stage four, he did everything he could to carry on and avoid Rally 2. His ingenuity with a spanner and a pair of jubilee clips meant he completed the whole route and took away the maximum experience of the fastest round of the championship. It also gained him plenty of respect from bush mechanics around the globe and could, perhaps, lead to a lucrative endorsement contract with Snap-on tools.

Kris Meeke (DS 3)
Pre-rally, Meeke played down criticism of his recent form by his team boss, but in Finland he scored another own goal - crashing out of a seemingly secure third place. On the plus side, he was closest to the leading Volkswagen duo Latvala and Ogier when he slid off on Jukojärvi (SS16), but with a decent gap to Østberg behind he really didn't need to be pushing. He rejoined on Sunday to complete the event in 18th place and take a point for third on the Power Stage. "At the end of the day, there are lot of positive points and one small negative…" was Kris's own, rather optimistic, summary.

Martin Prokop (Ford Fiesta RS)
Prokop started the rally buoyed by a fruitful pre-event test and a great feeling in the car at shakedown. Unfortunately his confidence proved to be his undoing. He started the event way too hot - going off at speed but somehow managing to get back on the road in one piece. His concentration and focus shredded, Prokop slackened off the pace to find a safe base and then tried to keep out of trouble. It was a strategy that delivered a satisfying seventh place after two years when he didn't finish in Finland.

Thierry Neuville (Hyundai i20)
Neuville's Shakedown crash and subsequent win in Germany last year was one of the most impressive WRC salvage jobs ever. So when he wrecked his car again at the Finland Shakedown, there were murmurs that it could even be a good omen. In the event, Neuville's early stages showed that his confidence had taken a knock as well as his car. His pace improved as the weekend went on and so did his position as the drivers around him hit trouble. An engine misfire on Saturday afternoon sounded worse than it actually was, and he went on to claim a respectable fourth - Hyundai's third consecutive top-four finish.

Sébastien Ogier (Volkswagen Polo R)
"Sometimes you have to accept that you can be beaten." These aren't words we're used to hearing from Ogier but in Finland he lost out to his team-mate and was magnanimous in his defeat. It was an extremely close battle, of course, but Ogier lost his chance when he clipped a rock on Saturday afternoon. Even though the gap was relatively slim, Ogier made it clear on Sunday's first stage that he would, unusually, settle for second. It was still a very useful result. And thanks to a three-point bonus for winning the Power Stage, Ogier now has a chance to wrap up this third title in Germany.

Robert Kubica (Ford Fiesta RS)
Finland proved to be another nightmare rally for Kubica. A faulty electronic sensor left his Fiesta RS with front-wheel drive only for Friday's first stage. He'd fixed that by the next stage, when his handbrake broke and he picked up a puncture. By the end of the next stage his car had developed a terminal alternator problem and shortly after that he was out. His return on Saturday peaked with a fifth-fastest time on Surkee (SS13) but he failed to complete the day after aquaplaning into a huge roll on SS18.

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Video: Finland review