SS14/15: Ott’s clean sweep

Estonia’s Ott Tänak completed a clean sweep of speed test victories at Neste Rally Finland on Saturday morning to confirm his mastery of this eighth round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

Stage info: SS14/15

SS14: Kakaristo 1, 23.66km
The legendary Ouninpohja is missing from this year’s itinerary but Kakaristo features many of the same roads. It starts with a tricky small road before turning onto the traditional big Ouninpohja route at 5.5km. Later comes the instantly recognisable Kakaristo junction, before which is the fast left where Craig Breen rolled in 2012. A deceptive crest a couple of kilometres before the finish must be treated with caution.

SS15: Tuohikotanen 1, 8.95km
Saturday’s new addition offers a variety of challenges and requires precision. The beginning is classic Rally Finland: mid-sized roads that keep twisting and turning. A deceiving right-hander at 3.5km could catch a few out, as the road falls away. After turning right at 5km, it’s fast all the way to the finish, with a couple of big jumps.

Having broken clear of Mads Østberg with victories in the opening two special stages, the Estonian made it four out of four by winning the roller-coaster Kakaristo and Tuohikotanen to return to service in Jyväskylä with a 23.7sec lead.

Tanak said he was driving ‘at my own rhythm’, giving the clear impression that there is more pace to come from him and his Toyota Yaris if needed.

Østberg was second in Kakaristo and third in Tuohikotanen, the Citroën C3 driver admitting to a couple of small mistakes. “We’re a little bit focused on Latvala behind. We seem to have the gap to him under control but Ott seems to have things under control as well,” he said.

Latvala posted top three times in both tests in his Yaris, meaning the same trio filled the leading three places on all four stages. He trailed Østberg by 20.9sec and while he reiterated he could not match team-mate Tänak, he pledged to keep fighting to reel in the Norwegian.

Hayden Paddon retained fourth in his Hyundai i20 despite ‘a small problem that disturbed me quite a lot’ but the Kiwi has a wary eye on Esapekka Lappi. The 2017 winner relegated Teemu Suninen to sixth and his next target was 13.6sec ahead.

Sébastien Ogier moved back ahead of M-Sport Ford team-mate Elfyn Evans by 1.9sec but the Frenchman was struggling to come to terms with the dramatic new aerodynamic package at the rear of his Fiesta.

Craig Breen and championship leader Thierry Neuville completed the leaderboard, the Belgian seemingly resigned to his fate as the slippery road conditions continued to hamper the early starters. He is second in the running order after starting first yesterday.

“We knew that at some point being first on the road was going to be a disadvantage but we can live with that. We’ll be happy as long as Ogier doesn’t take too many points,” he said.

Head to WRC+ to watch All Live from Neste Rally Finland, including every stage broadcast live, breaking service park news and expert studio analysis.

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