Toyota’s Ott Tänak has built a lead of 13.8 seconds by Saturday lunchtime on Rally Finland, but it has been a difficult morning for the home team, despite having two cars in first and second.
Four stages run twice split by a halfway service in Jyväskylä made up today’s itinerary on the undulating roads south of Rally Finland’s host city.
Tänak made the most of his starting order today to push hard, benefitting from stages that were at last relatively free of loose gravel after the pass of the competitors running in front of him.
Jari-Matti Latvala claimed the lead on SS13 but lost it on SS14, Kakaristo, when he came to the end of the stage with a puncture and extensive damage to the rear-left, having lost over 13 seconds after hitting a rock.
Things were even worse for his team mate Kris Meeke. The Northern Irishman was faster than Tänak on SS13 to move to within half a second of the overall lead. But he had to stop 8.8 kilometres into the test after breaking the rear-left suspension following a fifth-gear slide. With a wheel hanging off, it meant the end of the battle for the Toyota driver.
2017 Rally Finland winner Esapekka Lappi is on the provisional podium with his C3 WRC after a solid morning, following Meeke’s retirement.
Behind him, the battle of the Hyundais continued to rage, with the Citroën of Sébastien Ogier getting involved as well. Andreas Mikkelsen passed Breen for fifth on the opening stage, but then Breen took the spot back on the second test. At the time of the midday service, Mikkelsen was fourth overall and Breen was sixth, with an unwell Ogier in between them in fifth. A tough morning for the Frenchman who declared that he had been sick all night long. Less than 2.5 seconds separate the three of them.
Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville found a slightly better feeling with the car and his driving this morning and returned to the Jyväskylä service park in seventh, 17.2 seconds behind Breen.
The Ford Fiesta WRC of Teemu Suninen and Gus Greensmith, who was first on the road today, finished in eighth and ninth, separated by nearly a minute and a half.
The top 10 was completed by FIA WRC 2 Pro leader Kalle Rovanperä, who enjoyed a commanding advantage in the class, having completed a trouble-free run on Saturday morning. The Finnish talent is at safe distance from his French rival Eric Camilli, second in the category in 14th overall.
Pierre-Louis Loubet, 11th overall, benefitted from an equally comfortable margin at the head of FIA WRC 2. Jari Huttunen and Nicolas Gryazin are chasing him, more than a minute behind.
Tom Kristensson continues to lead the FIA Junior WRC, as he has done since the first stage yesterday morning, ahead of Dennis Rådström and Roland Poom.