Latvala sets early pace in Finland
Finland’s Jari-Matti Latvala leads home rally after opening leg
Last used in the 1980s, Friday’s opener offered a mix of fast and technical sections. It started on a wide road in a protected historical area and the first 9.6km were typical fast Finnish roller-coaster roads before it became narrower towards the finish.
Just 1.6km was all Robert Kubica managed before the Pole’s day came to a premature end. His Ford Fiesta RS went off the road and couldn’t continue.
Leader Jari-Matti Latvala emerged unscathed from a big scare when he flirted with disaster in a roadside ditch.
“I had a moment on a left-hander. I was quite a long time in a ditch to be honest. It was the first stage we recced and I had a pace note which didn’t say the corner tightened. A bit of pressure for the heart!” admitted the Finn.
However, he was still fastest by 0.4sec in his Volkswagen Polo R to extend his lead over team-mate Sébastien Ogier to 5.7sec The Frenchman admitted he was ‘a little bit too cautious’.
Thierry Neuville finished with the rear spoiler missing from his Hyundai i20 and damage to the back. “I went wide at a slippery braking point for a tight corner and hit something with the rear,” said Neuville, whose pace will be compromised until the spoiler can be replaced at the lunchtime service.
Kris Meeke dropped a couple of seconds with pace note issues in his Citroen DS3, while team-mate Mads Ostberg’s troubled start continued. “We had quite a few big moments. The car is different from yesterday. It’s working now, but I seem to have forgotten how to drive it,” he said.