Kris Meeke and the CitroÃ«n C2 Super 1600 on top A thrilling first leg in Finland, which has seen the top JWRC campaigners fighting to the closest second, has taken Kris Meeke and Glenn Patterson to an early lead in the provisional JWRC...
Kris Meeke and the Citroën C2 Super 1600 on top
A thrilling first leg in Finland, which has seen the top JWRC campaigners fighting to the closest second, has taken Kris Meeke and Glenn Patterson to an early lead in the provisional JWRC standings at the wheel of their Citroën C2 Super 1600 thanks to a score of four fastest stage times from a possible nine .
Although highly spectacular, Thursday evening's short super-special was in no way representative of the true Rally Finland stages and today's action finally enabled the eagerly awaited showdown between 2006's leading JWRC title contenders to get under way. The appalling weather leading up to the start left conditions far from ideal for Friday's first three stages which totalled almost 45km, ensuring a delicate start to the weekend for Kris Meeke and Glenn Patterson who succeeded in surviving today's extremely difficult going unscathed.
"Running in the wake of the many WRC cars didn't make things any easier," reported Kris. "On top of the extremely slippery conditions, you had to watch out for the half -buried rocks, any of which could have given you a puncture. I started at a fast pace but without overdoing it. I was very focused on not making any mistakes."
Despite their early lead which they succeeded in defending throughout the day, it was no stroll for the Citroën crew as they began to pull slowly clear of their equally determined rivals and Kris and Glenn's cushion at lunchtime service amounted to no more than 3 seconds! But without upping his pace and remaining exceedingly cautious, the Ulsterman succeeded in taking the upper hand over the next two loops (two stages totalling almost 50km run twice) to emerge in front this evening with an advantage of 10.2 seconds over his closest chaser after the final visit to the super-special.
"I'm looking forward to Leg 2," beamed Kris. 'The car has been very competitive today and it should be even more at ease over tomorrow's faster stages."
In addition to the crew, the entire PH. Sport team was pleased with the day's result, especially Citroën Sport's Customer Competition Manager Yves Matton: "Kris and Glenn have respected their game-plan to the letter. I am very pleased with today's work . It's the first time this season Kris and Glenn they have found themselves in this position at the end of Leg 1 and I hope they will succeed in holding on to it tomorrow, especially if they continue at the same pace and in the same frame of mind."
Meanwhile, Julien Pressac has spent the day familiarising himself with the niceties of the Finnish round and today's stages lived up to his expectations. "It's been incredibly tough," he sighed. "I had my first moment five kilometres into the first stage and I immediately tried to calm myself down ; perhaps too much, for it can then be difficult to find the right pace. It was only second time over the 36.39km Vellipohja stage that I started to get my confidence back and that's where I scored my best performance of the day."
It's also been a steep learning curve for the Citroën C2-R2 and French crew Fabie n Fiandino/Sabrina De Castelli who nonetheless did what was expected of them today. Their perfectly commendable run so far has been troubled by just two punctures. "The car is a pleasure to drive and I was pleasantly surprised by its handling, especially over the bumpier portions and over the jumps," reported the Citroën driver who is more accustomed to French Championship asphalt competition than to the infamous Finnish toboggan run...