M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Evgeny Novikov and Ott Tänak completed a solid first day at the 2012 Neste Oil Rally Finland to lay 8th and 9th respectively at the end of Day 1.
The rally started in Lahti’s picturesque harbour, 170km south of the rally base in Jyväskylä, before taking in three stages on the return to service. Taking the challenging stages in their stride, and getting into the rhythm of Finland’s fast, flowing gravel roads, the M-Sport duo set consistent top-ten times to secure their position ahead of tomorrow's competitive stages and the return of some of Rally Finland’s most legendary roads.
With no testing in the lead up to the event, and admittedly not pushing to the maximum behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC, Novikov impressed over the opening stages with a 5th fastest time through the Jokimaa [SS2] super special – just 1.1 seconds adrift of pace-setter Petter Solberg. Elsewhere, Tänak did well to maintain his pace with gravel spray damaging the widescreen of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC on SS2 and hindering the Estonian’s charge throughout the evening.
Evgeny Novikov (8th) said:
“The stages were ok. It was a long day with the big road sections, but everything is fine. We didn’t push to the maximum today, but maybe tomorrow we will try and up our speed. I am happy with the result for the moment and we will see what happens tomorrow.”
Ott Tänak (9th) said:
“The first stage was ok. I am not in the best condition at the moment because I haven’t had any testing and the roads are really fast so it is a bit difficult.
“Then on the second stage [SS2] on the first corner, Sébastien [Loeb] was on the inside and I was on the outside and I got all the gravel in my windscreen which ruined it [the visibility] for the next stage. On the third stage [SS3] there was quite low sun and we lost a lot of time because the straights were in the sun and the corners were in the shadow and we couldn’t see anything [through the damaged windscreen]!
“But it is a long day tomorrow and for sure we will try to improve and set some good times.”