Craig Breen’s hopes of securing a maiden WRC podium at Neste Rally Finland received a major boost when closest rival Ott Tänak crashed out of contention on Sunday morning.
Stage info: SS21/22
SS21: Lempää 1, 6.83km
Sunday’s opener sees a return to the eastern side of Lake Päijänne for a test last used in 1999. The surface is hard and the road bends all the way through, with some great combinations of corners and crests. The second part of the stage is more twisty, but it flows from start to finish.
SS22: Oittila 1, 10.15km
It is even longer since this test was last used – 1994. Oittila is fast, fast, fast with plenty of dips and small crests. The final section could be the narrowest of the rally and there are chances to take big cuts through the grass. There are no junctions in the first 3.7km, but five in the last 2.3km.
Tänak won the opening Lempää speed test in his Ford Fiesta RS to close to within 4.8sec of the Irishman. But it all went wrong for the Estonian 3.35km into the following Oittila stage when he crashed into a ditch at a right corner after a crest.
His demise left Breen with a 6.6sec advantage over Thierry Neuville. “I had a clean run, I just need to keep calm and see what we can do. Seeing Ott threw me a little bit and I maybe backed off a little too much after that,” said the DS 3 pilot.
Leader Kris Meeke was a picture of serenity. “It’s very calm and relaxed in the car. I’m just taking an extra dab at the brakes. I’m enjoying the stages but still giving them maximum respect,” said the Briton.
The DS 3 driver was ninth in Lempää and sixth in Oittila and his lead over Jari-Matti Latvala was 34.5sec with just a repeat of two stages remaining before this afternoon’s Jyväskylä finish.
Latvala was third in both stages in his Volkswagen Polo R, the Finn cautious at the bend where Tänak crashed after seeing warnings in advance.
Neuville won Oittila in his Hyundai i20, the Belgian coping with his rallylong handling issues. “The rear wasn’t following the front end and I can’t do any more. My pace notes are sometimes too slow in the fast sections,” he said.
Neuville has a 2.4sec advantage over team-mate Hayden Paddon with Mads Østberg a further 8.9sec behind in a Fiesta RS.