Peugeot flies in Rally Finland. Peugeot has dominated the opening leg of the Neste Rally Finland today, with the trio of factory 206 WRCs filling the top three places. Peugeot has also enjoyed a monopoly on fastest stage timesÂ , except in ...
Peugeot flies in Rally Finland.
Peugeot has dominated the opening leg of the Neste Rally Finland today, with the trio of factory 206 WRCs filling the top three places. Peugeot has also enjoyed a monopoly on fastest stage times , except in this evening's short spectators stage.
Reigning World Champion Richard Burns leads the rally overnight, having set five fastest times. Richard's only drama has been a shattered rear window following a heavy landing on one of Finland's famous jumps. But the Englishman knows he will face a tough challenge from his Finnish team mates.
Richard : "Tomorrow's stages are more specialised and should suit the Finns better. But if I drive like I have today, with no real mistakes, I'm confident that I'll be able to stay in front. I'm very happy with my performance, but my team mates have done a fantastic job too."
Harri Rovanpera ends the leg in second overall, just 12 seconds behind Burns. The Finn spent the morning getting used to his new co-driver Voitto Silander - who is substituting for the unwell Risto Pietilainen. But once Harri had accustomed himself to his new companion, he was able to set a fastest stage time and move into second place.
Harri: "We had a puncture on the final loop of stages but otherwise the car has been perfect all day. I have a very good feeling, and I'm looking forward to continuing our fantastic battle tomorrow. The stages are a bit more technical. I think it will be very close between all the Peugeot drivers."
Marcus Gronholm was hampered by running first on the road, and slipped to third after leading earlier in the day. There was a lot of loose gravel on the hot, dusty stages meaning that cars further down the order had the benefit of cleaner roads.
But for leg two tomorrow the top 15 cars will be run in reverse order, and Marcus is confident he will get the time back - despite breaking a shock absorber at the end of the day (SS9).
Marcus: "Today has been very tough with all the loose gravel, but tomorrow is another day," he said. "I couldn't avoid hitting a stone on the penultimate stage, which broke the shock absorber. That was disappointing but I actually thought I would lose more than the 15 seconds that I did. It will be nicer tomorrow when I'm not first on the road!"
One of the sensations of leg one was rising young Finnish star Juuso Pykalisto - recently signed by Peugeot for the next three years. Driving a customer-specification 206, Pykalisto was able to set top-three times. He climbed to fourth overall, but a cruel transmission failure on stage six forced him to retire.
Tomorrow the crews will have to get up early for a 0600 start. They will drive six stages including two runs over the classic Ouninpohja test, famed the world over for its rollercoaster crests. After a 15-hour day, the first car is due back in Parc Ferme at 21:11.