Loeb and Ogier in front in Rally Finland
Sébastien Loeb / Daniel Elena and Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia were quicker than their rivals in the first leg of Rally Finland, and are currently lying first and second in the provisional classification. Tomorrow, they will have a tough job on their hands as they will have to open the road on what will be a long day with 135 timed kilometers.
Rally Finland is still as popular as ever. Right from the start of the shakedown this morning a huge crowd poured into the forests in the Jyväskylä region to see the best drivers racing on the fastest roads of the season. Several thousand people managed to create the ambience of a stadium in the most spectacular spots with flags and songs praising their favourite drivers!
The racing added to the general gaiety. The 314-kilometre sprint began this afternoon with three stages (39,74 km) to the north of Jyväskylä. In Lankamaa (SS1), one of the Citroën Total World Rally Team’s main rivals made a mistake. “I heard that Mikko Hirvonen was losing time behind me,” said Sébastien Loeb when he arrived at the first stop. “We pushed really hard, but the surface is very dry so we had to do a bit of sweeping.”
Sébastien Ogier, who started four minutes later, was in front of his team-mate, and went into second place with only Jari Ketomaa, a quick local driver who used his seventeenth position on the road to take the lead, in front of him. “I was flat out everywhere,” stated the Citroën driver, who showed just how motivated he is. Hirvonen was already almost a minute behind.
As Loeb was the first out on the road, he was unable to control his position so he went pedal to the metal in Laukaa (SS2). The seven-time world champion took the overall lead as one by one Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala and Jari Ketomaa slotted in behind him to let him open the road during the whole of the second leg. There were no changes in the order in the third stage.
“I’m feeling pretty good in the Citroën DS3 WRC,” summed up Loeb at the end of the day. We swept the trajectories in the first stage, but not quite so much in the next two. It’s obvious that first place is a handicap for the crew who’s opening the route, especially when the roads are so dry. We don’t know yet what kind of weather we’re going to have tomorrow. The positive aspect is that we’ve got a great opportunity to make the break with Mikko Hirvonen.”
“We got into the groove right away,” continued Ogier. “That’s what we lacked last year to win. Today, the leg was too short to hope to open up a gap. The car feels good. Tomorrow is when the rally really begins with some very tricky new stages. There’s still a long way to go.”
Taking into account the classification after stage 2, Friday’s starting order is: Loeb, Ogier, Latvala, Ketomaa, Sordo and Solberg.