Saturday | 01 Aug 2015

SS14: Fast and furious – Finland at its best!

Four flat out stages covering 66km on Saturday morning and Jari-Matti Latvala extended his advantage over team-mate Sébastien Ogier by four-tenths of a second – such is the frenetic pace of the Volkswagen duo’s victory fight at Neste Oil Rally Finland.

Stage info: SS13 / 14

SS13: Surkee 1, 14.95km
Two worlds meet in Surkee. Narrow roads with tight places and stones contrast with wide sections where drivers can push at crazy speeds. The opening 5km use narrow forest roads with tall grass lining the roadside, but then the stage widens and the brake pedal isn’t needed too often. It ends with a final narrow stretch of almost 4km.

SS14: Horkka 1, 15.59km
A new name, but essentially familiar roads as just the opening 1km are new. Apart from a narrow 2.5km section early on, which will need to be treated with care, the stage is fast and wide with several big jumps, including the one where Evgeny Novikov almost flipped backwards in the air several years ago.

As with the opening two tests, honours were shared in the last two stages of the morning. Ogier won Surkee to reduce Latvala’s lead to 2.0sec, before Latvala was quickest through Horkka to edge the margin up to 3.0sec.

Ogier, second in the start order, encountered plenty of loose gravel in Surkee and admitted to a close call in the following test. “A small moment when I got off line, but I’m happy with the loop. The first one was a bit slippery but the rest were OK,” he said.

Latvala counted himself fortunate to escape the clutches of a ditch when he slid his Polo R wide in Surkee. “I lost a little rhythm because of that. I tried to attack in the next stage but I let the car go too sideways, although it has been a very, very good morning,” he said.

Third and fifth in the two stages kept Kris Meeke in third in Citroën’s DS3, the Ulsterman’s advantage over team-mate Mads Østberg at 13.5sec. The Norwegian chastised himself for having slowed down too much at ‘Novikov’s jump’!

Hyundai colleagues Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo held station in fifth and sixth. They are split by 5.9sec but neither could understand how to match the times of those ahead. “I tried to follow the lines in the road of the cars ahead but I can’t. I can’t understand how they have so much more grip here,” said Neuville.

Juho Hänninen was seventh, Ott Tänak overhauled Martin Prokop to take eighth and WRC 2 leader Esapekka Lappi completed the leaderboard.

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