Finland WRC: Tanak leads Ostberg as Neuville makes error

Finland WRC: Tanak leads Ostberg as Neuville makes error
By: Matt Beer
Jul 27, 2018, 9:28 AM

Toyota's Ott Tanak holds a narrow Rally Finland lead over the resurgent Citroen of Mads Ostberg, while World Rally Championship leader Thierry Neuville is only 10th after a mistake.

Ott Tanak, Martin Järveoja, Toyota Yaris WRC, Toyota Gazoo Racing
Mads Ostberg, Torstein Eriksen, Citroën C3 WRC, Citroën World Rally Team
Jari-Matti Latvala, Miikka Anttila, Toyota Yaris WRC, Toyota Gazoo Racing
Teemu Suninen, Mikko Markkula, Ford Fiesta WRC, M-Sport Ford
Sébastien Ogier, Julien Ingrassia, Ford Fiesta WRC, M-Sport Ford
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 WRC, Hyundai Motorsport
Jari Huttunen, Antti Linnaketo, i20 R5
Hayden Paddon, Sebastian Marshall, Hyundai i20 WRC, Hyundai Motorsport

Neuville had insisted before the weekend that his focus was on protecting his 27-point WRC standings cushion over Sebastien Ogier on an event where his Hyundai team had struggled last year and where he would spend Friday first on dusty roads.

Initially ninth to Ogier's seventh, Neuville gained one place when his teammate Andreas Mikkelsen lost three minutes with a trip off the road on third stage of the morning Assamaki - but then made his own mistake on the following Aanekoski stage.

Admitting he was distracted by thinking about correcting an over-optimistic pace note at a previous corner, Neuville braked too late and spun. He clipped a tree and lost half a minute getting to the end of the stage, leaving him over a minute off the lead in 10th and 40 seconds away from seventh-placed Ogier.

At the front, Tanak initially looked like he would storm away from the field - despite his third place on the road not being ideal for the conditions.

But Ostberg - who had declared after topping Thursday's shakedown that the revised Citroen could win this weekend - stayed with Tanak and briefly moved into a 0.5s lead by setting the pace on SS4.

Minor mistakes on the morning's final stage meant Ostberg dropped back to second, with Tanak heading to service 1.1s ahead.

Jari-Matti Latvala admitted that he was feeling the pressure of being on home ground at the start of the day and that this contributed to a slow start.

Two subsequent stage wins moved him up from fourth to third, and he is within 10.8s of his rally-leading teammate Tanak.

Teemu Suninen was fourth until a mistake at the end of Aanekoski dropped him to fifth behind Hyundai's top runner Hayden Paddon.

That means the three M-Sport Fords run 5-6-7, with Elfyn Evans between Suninen and Ogier.

Last year's Finland winner Esapekka Lappi lost touch with the leaders immediately when his Toyota stalled under braking on the morning's opener. He is 49s off the lead in ninth.

Citroen has the pace to have two drivers fighting for victory, but Craig Breen is already in a recovery drive, having picked up a puncture early on the day's first stage.

Even with a string of rapid stage times thereafter, Breen is 54s from the front in 10th.

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