Jari-Matti Latvala headed a Volkswagen clean sweep of the top times at the Neste Rally Finland shakedown on Thursday morning.
Latvala, chasing a third consecutive victory at his home round of the FIA World Rally Championship, went fastest through the 4.81km Ruuhimäki special stage in his Polo R on his third and final pass.
The 31-year-old was 0.5sec ahead of Sébastien Ogier and Andreas Mikkelsen, who tied for second.
“I’m very happy with the car, it felt good. I have a similar set-up to last year, the dampers are a little bit different but that’s all. I don’t use this set-up on any other gravel rally. The dampers are harder and I feel more comfortable landing after jumps. They stop the car from ‘crashing through’ and touching the road,” Latvala said.
When Latvala starts the rally in Jyväskylä this evening he will become the most experienced Finnish driver in WRC history and climb to fourth in the all-time list. His 164th start will move him ahead of ex-Ford team-mate Mikko Hirvonen.
Thierry Neuville was a tenth of a second back in fourth in his Hyundai i20. Mads Østberg, hoping to banish memories of a disappointing event in Poland earlier this month, was fifth in a Ford Fiesta RS with Hayden Paddon completing the top six.
Craig Breen, who rolled testing on Monday, was eighth in his repaired DS 3, tied with Abu Dhabi Total team-mate Kris Meeke. Yazeed Al Rajhi rolled his Fiesta RS during his second attempt through the stage but the car was not badly damaged and he is expected to start.
Leading times at Neste Rally Finland shakedown
|Rank||Driver||Car||Time (+ to fastest)|
|1||Latvala||VW Polo R||2m05.5s|
|=2||Ogier||VW Polo R||+0.5s|
|=2||Mikkelsen||VW Polo R||+0.5s|
|5||Ostberg||Ford Fiesta RS||+0.9s|
|7||Tanak||Ford Fiesta RS||+1.4s|