Ott Tänak and Andreas Mikkelsen were tied for the lead after Thursday night’s opening speed test of Neste Rally Finland in the centre of Jyväskylä.
Stage info: SS1
Harju 1, 2.31km
Neste Rally Finland kicks off with the short Harju test near the centre of the host town of Jyväskylä. It returned to the itinerary in 2014 following a 16-year lay-off, and is used in virtually the same format as last year. It’s a mix of asphalt roads and gravel tracks, and drivers must take care at a fast and tricky downhill descent into a tight turn between trees.
Estonian Tänak, who came so close to scoring his maiden WRC victory in Poland earlier this month, and Norway’s Mikkelsen edged championship leader Sébastien Ogier by a tenth of a second through the 2.31km Harju special stage in the rally’s host town.
Tänak, who lost the win with a penultimate stage puncture after leading for much of the rally in his Ford Fiesta RS, joked: “We were not working hard enough in Poland so we have to work harder here! I’ll try to make the perfect weekend.”
Mikkelsen could count himself slightly lucky to finish the test unscathed in his Volkswagen Polo R. He flirted with disaster exiting a fast left bend so wide that his car was totally off the road.
Thierry Neuville was 1.2sec off the lead in fourth in his Hyundai i20 with Kris Meeke next up in Citroën’s DS 3. Jari-Matti Latvala, aiming for his third consecutive Finland win, completed the top six in another Polo R but was far from happy at being 2.1sec behind the leading duo.
“It was a bad start. I wasn’t happy with my driving, I struggled with the gears and was braking too early. I lost time,” he said.
Tomorrow brings a long day behind the wheel. After leaving Jyväskylä at 06.05 they face two loops of five tests mainly west of the town, before a repeat of tonight’s Harju test. The 11 stages cover 146.85km before the action ends at 21.45.