Friday | 31 Jul 2015

SS3: Ogier and Meeke duel for lead

Four-tenths of a second split Sébastien Ogier and Kris Meeke after Friday morning’s first two stages at Neste Oil Rally Finland, but championship leader Ogier held the upper hand in his Volkswagen Polo R.

Stage info: SS2 / SS3

SS2: Pihlajakoski 1, 14.51km
A repeat of the stage used last year for the first time since the 1980s. It starts on a wide road with plenty of small crests that require precision, before becoming narrower from 9.60km to the finish. There’s only one big jump and it’s not the most challenging test, but the speed will wake up drivers.

SS3: Päijälä 1, 23.56km
Mikko Hirvonen refers to this stage as ‘the little brother of Ouninpohja’. It’s an awesome test with crests, jumps and technical sections on wide and blisteringly fast roads. The opening 4km are the most technical, but the second half is full rollercoaster. The only difference from last year is a new 180 metre section at the start. Finland at its best.

Ogier ceded his overnight lead to Meeke in Pihlajakoski, but the Frenchman went fastest in Päijälä to move back ahead.

“The roads aren’t easy to read and the grip was pretty low. The gravel is compacted and the tyres struggled to bite. You need to break the surface to find grip, some corners are slippery while others are better. When you’re first on the road it’s hard to judge the lines,” he said.

Meeke was delighted with his start from further back in the running order. “I made a couple of small errors in the first one and lost a little bit of momentum, and momentum is what it’s all about here. The second one was quite slippery, but what a beautiful place to go rallying,” said the DS 3 pilot.

Jari-Matti Latvala won Pihlajakoski at an average of 131.78kph, the fastest of the year, and fourth in Päijälä left the Polo R man third, 4.4sec off the lead. The Finn admitted to close escapes in both tests.

Ott Tänak was third in both stages in his Ford Fiesta RS but was in a glum mood. The Estonian slid wide, hit a rock and damaged the front left damper in Päijälä. With no service today, it’s a problem he must live with for the rest of the day.

Hayden Paddon’s Hyundai i20 and Elfyn Evans’ Fiesta RS were fifth in sixth in both tests to hold those positions on the leaderboard.

Dani Sordo overshot a junction and Martin Prokop slid into a ditch, but Robert Kubica had more serious problems. A faulty differential sensor meant he had front-wheel drive only for the first stage. He resolved the issue but it left him with no handbrake for the following test, in which he also punctured.

Thierry Neuville was a lowly 10th, the Belgian struggling for confidence after yesterday’s shakedown crash.

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