Jari-Matti Latvala set a string of four fastest times during Saturday morning’s loop of stages to reclaim the lead of Rally Finland and head an impressive Toyota one-two-three on the team’s home event. He heads last night’s leader Esapekka Lappi by 7.8 seconds at the mid-leg service with Juho Hänninen, in the third Yaris WRC, climbing from fifth to third.
After the longest day of the rally yesterday, today’s route takes in two loops of four stages, including the legendary Ouninpohja where cars just fly from jump to jump in the most spectacular fashion. Latvala, who is on supreme form, was on the pace from the outset and slashed the gap to Lappi in the first stage, his young team-mate once again cautious in the opening stage of the day. In the following stage Latvala took the advantage and maintained his lead to top a dream result for the team. Lappi has been unable to match the pace but the young Finn’s performance continues to be outstanding in only his fourth event in the car. Whether he will push this afternoon to try and re-take the lead remains to be seen. Hänninen has run wide a couple of times but was able to move into fourth when Craig Breen spun in SS15. He then also benefitted when third-placed Teemu Suninen missed a chicane in the following stage and lost over 20 seconds.
Suninen’s fourth position sees the Finns lock out the top of the leaderboard and but for missing the chicane, he has avoided problems. Elfyn Evans has had a far better run today after set-up changes last night, the Welshman moving from seventh to fifth and, like Suninen, is battling for the final podium position. Breen continues to struggle; he overshot a junction in the first stage, had a spin in the next and is finding it impossible to commit and find a rhythm. He has now dropped to sixth. Thierry Neuville’s rally is also getting no better and the Belgian has only moved one position up the leaderboard to seventh, making little inroads on the potential he had to slash the points deficit to Sébastien Ogier. The Frenchman did not re-start this morning, co-driver Julien Ingrassia suffering mild concussion following their accident yesterday. Kris Meeke is languishing behind too; after damaging the steering yesterday, he has somehow carried an issue with it into today and will doubtless be happy to put his Rally Finland outing behind him on Sunday. Ott Tänak and Dani Sordo round off the top 10 with Mads Østberg dropping to 11th after going off the road, damaging the suspension and picking up brake issues. Hayden Paddon retired for the second time this weekend after hitting a rock and breaking the suspension on the Hyundai.
In the FIA WRC 2 Championship, three out of four stage wins keeps Jari Huttunen in the lead ahead of Quentin Gilbert and Tom Cave. Nicolas Ciamin continues to top the Junior standings having also won three stages.
eom/FIA press release