After a cautious start, championship leader Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) increased in confidence on the drier roads of the early afternoon and ended the leg with four fastest times, splitting the Ford's on the end of day leaderboard. Petter Solberg...
After a cautious start, championship leader Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) increased in confidence on the drier roads of the early afternoon and ended the leg with four fastest times, splitting the Ford's on the end of day leaderboard. Petter Solberg (Subaru) was untroubled in fourth, one place ahead of brother Henning (Peugeot), who steadily climbed the leaderboard throughout the day. Chris Atkinson (Subaru) completed the top six despite overheating troubles this afternoon. Dani Sordo (Citroen) lost time when his car's windscreen wipers failed on stage four but recovered to seventh ahead of Gigi Galli (Peugeot), who dropped 40sec with a spin on the following stage. Manfred Stohl (Peugeot) dropped five minutes with broken suspension in stage six after hitting a rock and incurred a 70sec penalty as the team made repairs. Daniel Carlsson (Mitsubishi) climbed to sixth before crashing on the penultimate stage while Kosti Katajamaki (Ford) retired on the previous test after hitting a rock and ripping a rear wheel from his car.
Kronos Total Citroen
Having won in Germany a week ago, Sebastien Loeb, Daniel Elena and their Xsara WRC face a rematch against Marcus Gronholm and Timo Rautiainen in Finland. With the opening day of competition completed, the duel is already shaping up to be a classic one.
Sebastien Loeb: " It wasn't raining to start with, but even when we saw some drops on the windscreen I didn't lift off. I was braking as late as I would in the dry, skidding through the ruts, and aquaplaning all over the place. We had a few big moments but I'm not unhappy with the end result. We're about a dozen seconds off Marcus so there is still everything to play for. Tomorrow I'll be pushing hard again!"
Daniel Sordo: "I'm having a lot of fun on the high-speed sections : I'm just driving at my own pace and the times are not too bad. I'm simply hoping that we will have a bit more stable weather for the rest of the rally. Driving here is difficult enough as it is !"
The feelings of the two OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team-drivers couldn't be more diverse. While Henning Solberg was true to his word and climbed up to the top five, Manfred Stohl lost over six minutes. The 34-year-old Austrian grazed a rock on special stage six which caused the left transverse control arm to break. The OMV driver remains optimistic nevertheless and considers the further run as more than just a fast recce for the "Neste Oil Rally Finland 2007".
Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor: "In such a case you can't hope to win anymore. But, following Katajamaki's retirement, I'll try at least to get Wilson. That would secure one manufacture point, at least. And who knows what tomorrow and Sunday will bring?"
Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud: "It's perfect. We are really feeling great. And the speed is finally okay, too. Third best overall time on special stage six gave our self-confidence a further boost. Now we will do our all to get even further ahead."
BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers Marcus Gronholm and Timo Rautiainen led Rally Finland after winning five speed tests during today's first leg. The Finns, chasing their sixth victory here in seven years, powered their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car into the lead during a rain-soaked morning and returned to the rally base in Jyvaskyla this evening with a 12.0sec advantage. Team-mates and fellow countrymen Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen lie third in a similar Focus RS, 43.5sec behind their colleagues.
Marcus Gronholm/Timo Rautiainen: "We tested in the dry here last month but the set-up worked well in the rain also. The roads were extremely wet in places and dry in others and although it was difficult to drive in such changeable weather, we had constant grip. The rain was so heavy in one stage this afternoon that the windscreen wipers would not go fast enough and I just couldn't see."
Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen: "Third is a good position tonight, although first or second would be even better!. At times this afternoon I was over-driving at every corner and as a result the car was sliding too much. It's quicker to back-off before the corner and take the bend in a straighter line. There were so many corners that I got wrong and I needed a calmer pace.
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford
After an encouraging first day of Rally Finland for the Subaru team, Petter Solberg holds fourth place overall, but remains less than ten seconds behind third place with two days of competition still to go. Highlighting the performance improvements already made to the Subaru Impreza WRC2006, Solberg's car ran faultlessly throughout the Leg and enabled him to set a string of top three times. Chris Atkinson also had a positive day and was holding fifth place overall before an overheating problem on the last loop of stages dropped him to sixth.
Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: "Today has mainly been very good. I feel the car has improved very much particularly when jumping and in the rougher parts of the stages. We've been very unlucky with the weather and then losing time stuck behind Manfred Stohl. For tomorrow we're going to keep pushing as we want to get up onto the podium."
Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: "I'm pretty satisfied with how we drove today. From the start we targeted a top six position and despite the tricky conditions and the time we lost on the last stages we are there. I'm sure that we can fix the overheating and tomorrow we look forward to getting back out there and setting more good times."