Finland WRC: Neuville holds narrow lead after SS1

Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville took an early lead on Rally Finland after winning the opening superspecial stage by 0.7 seconds from WRC championship leader Ott Tanak.

Finland WRC: Neuville holds narrow lead after SS1

Tanak, who won last year’s event, topped the morning shakedown from Neuville and had been marginally up on the opening split, but fell back towards the end of the short 1.4-mile stage based in the centre of Jyvaskyla. 

Toyota teammate and 2016 winner Kris Meeke was third quickest in his Yaris WRC, albeit 1.2s adrift of Neuville. 

Sebastien Ogier, who this week announced his intention to retire from the WRC at the end of his current Citroen contract in 2020, was a further tenth of a second in arrears in fourth.

Neuville’s Hyundai stablemate Andreas Mikkelsen was 2.2s off the pace in fifth, having bemoaned a “couple of mistakes” during his run. 

Craig Breen, Teemu Suninen and Jari-Matti Latvala hold a joint sixth place after setting identical times. The trio lie just 2.4s off the leading time of Neuville. 

Breen, making his first start of the season in what is for now a one-off appearance with Hyundai, was the first of the WRC cars to enter the stage and set an impressive benchmark on his first competitive outing in the i20. 

Suninen and Latvala each finished ahead of fellow Finn Esapekka Lappi in the Citroen C3. 

Lappi is currently ninth quickest, 3.1s off the pace, while Gus Greensmith was the slowest WRC runner in 11th, on only his second outing in the main class. 

WRC2 Pro points leader Kalle Rovanpera completed the top 10 in his Skoda Fabia R5.

Standings after SS1 (top 10):

Cla # Driver/Codriver Car Time Gap
1 11 Belgium Thierry Neuville
Belgium Nicolas Gilsoul
Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 1'47.3  
2 8 Estonia Ott Tanak
Estonia Martin Jarveoja
Toyota Yaris WRC 1'48.0 0.7
3 5 United Kingdom Kris Meeke
United Kingdom Sebastian Marshall
Toyota Yaris WRC 1'48.5 1.2
4 1 France Sébastien Ogier
France Julien Ingrassia
Citroën C3 WRC 1'48.6 1.3
5 89 Norway Andreas Mikkelsen
Norway Anders Jaeger
Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 1'49.5 2.2
6 42 Ireland Craig Breen
Ireland Paul Nagle
Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 1'49.7 2.4
7 3 Finland Teemu Suninen
Jarmo Lehtinen
Ford Fiesta WRC 1'49.7 2.4
8 10 Finland Jari-Matti Latvala
Finland Miikka Anttila
Toyota Yaris WRC 1'49.7 2.4
9 4 Finland Esapekka Lappi
Finland Janne Ferm
Citroën C3 WRC 1'50.4 3.1
10 21 Finland Kalle Rovanperä
Jonne Halttunen
Škoda Fabia R5 Evo 1'52.1 4.8
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