WRC | Latvala takes an early lead in Finland

WRC | 2015 World Rally Championship – Rally Finland Preview

Written and Images by – Michael Vettas | Images by – André Lavadinho – @tWorld

The Rally of 1000 lakes better known as the Neste Oil Rally Finland begun with the official shakedown North East of Jyvaskyla to Riihimaki on a stretch of road which has been used previously for the Power Stage.

With plenty of jumps and fast corners, this stage was a great way to start the long and fast rally although Thierry Neuville might disagree after a high speed crash that saw a large tree slice into his Hyundai Motorsport WRC car.

The usually cool as a cucumber Neuville and his co-driver, Nicolas Gilsoul walked unscathed from the mangled mess which highlights the strength and safety aspects of a modern day FIA approved rally car.

Going into the first day of competition, everyone knew that Jari-Matti Latvala would have a slight advantage although Sebastian Ogier could never be discounted especially with New Zealand’s Hayden Paddon showing his pace during shakedown.

Ogier took the early lead winning the Super Special Stage around Jyvaskyla on Thursday evening yet Friday would also be a test for crews. With no midday service available to the teams, repairs were down to the driver and co-driver should anything break.

After the mornings loop, Ogier held a 4.6sec lead over team mate Latvala with Kris Meeke in third. The big news however was that of Andreas Mikkelsen and Hayden who had both falling victim to hidden rocks which resulted in retirements from the event.

Andreas Mikkelsen said “We wanted to defend second place in the World Championship and to extend our advantage if possible. Unfortunately, however, today was not our day and we crashed out, we ran out of road and rolled several times.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2015 -WRC Finland (FIN) -  WRC 30/07/2015 to 02/08/2015 - PHOTO :  @WorldFIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2015 -WRC Finland (FIN) -  WRC 30/07/2015 to 02/08/2015 - PHOTO :  @WorldFIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2015 -WRC Finland (FIN) -  WRC 30/07/2015 to 02/08/2015 - PHOTO :  @WorldFIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2015 -WRC Finland (FIN) -  WRC 30/07/2015 to 02/08/2015 - PHOTO :  @WorldFIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2015 -WRC Finland (FIN) -  WRC 30/07/2015 to 02/08/2015 - PHOTO :  @WorldFIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2015 -WRC Finland (FIN) -  WRC 30/07/2015 to 02/08/2015 - PHOTO :  @WorldFIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2015 -WRC Finland (FIN) -  WRC 30/07/2015 to 02/08/2015 - PHOTO :  @WorldFIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2015 -WRC Finland (FIN) -  WRC 30/07/2015 to 02/08/2015 - PHOTO :  @WorldFIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2015 -WRC Finland (FIN) -  WRC 30/07/2015 to 02/08/2015 - PHOTO :  @WorldFIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2015 -WRC Finland (FIN) -  WRC 30/07/2015 to 02/08/2015 - PHOTO :  @WorldFIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2015 -WRC Finland (FIN) -  WRC 30/07/2015 to 02/08/2015 - PHOTO :  @World

Hayden Paddon said “I’m really disappointed that we have had to retire from the rally. Unfortunately, just 1km before the end of the first afternoon stage, we lost the car, the car was too badly damaged and therefore we’ve been forced to retire from the event”.

After the Midday break Latvala began his attack and on the second loop of the famous Ouninpohja stage he pounced, taking the stage win and the lead from Ogier.

Smiling ear to ear Jari-Matti Latvala said “It really was great fun today. I am particularly pleased to have made peace with ‘Ouninpohja’. As a Finn, this stage is very prestigious, just as it is to lead your home rally. The key now is to keep our rhythm and a cool head.”

The Top 3 positions remained the same for the remaining three stages with Latvala holding a small 2.6sec lead over Ogier with Meeke a further 21.4sec further back.

Heat 2 will be prove to be another big day for the competition with Latvala hoping the Finnish fans come out to cheer him on as he aims for back to back wins here in Finland.

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