SS14: Latvala strikes back
Lappi’s lead cut to 0.6sec
Jari-Matti Latvala drew first blood on Saturday morning at Neste Rally Finland to slash team-mate Esapekka Lappi’s overnight lead to under a second.
He won the opening Pihlajakoski speed test by 2.7sec from Toyota Gazoo Racing colleague Juho Hänninen. A cautious Lappi was fourth and his 4.4sec advantage was cut to 0.6sec.
“I’m here to fight. Esapekka is driving amazingly and Juho is driving very fast too, so nothing comes for free. Miikka (co-driver Anttila) said I was too aggressive at the beginning, but I tried to put that right on the big road,” said Latvala.
In a carbon copy of yesterday morning’s opening, Lappi was ultra-careful.
“Jari-Matti had a really good stage and I was a bit cautious at the beginning,” he explained. “I was maybe a bit afraid of the grip but in the other half it felt good. The plan is to try find the same rhythm as yesterday. I won’t force myself to fight with Jari-Matti, it will not end well.”
Third fastest kept Teemu Suninen in the final podium place in his Ford Fiesta, while Craig Breen retained fourth despite overshooting a corner in his Citroen C3.
A dejected Thierry Neuville showed no signs of improving on yesterday’s pace. The Belgian was ninth fastest in his Hyundai i20 and said: “We’ve worked on the set-up and tried everything but we will not be competitive this weekend.”
Kris Meeke reported continued steering problems in his C3 and Ott Tänak’s wipers again jammed in the middle of his Ford Fiesta’s windscreen. “I’ve had this problem for a long time and nobody seems to care. I was fighting with it for a long time and had no rhythm,” he said.
Sébastien Ogier did not leave service this morning after yesterday’s heavy crash. Co-driver Julien Ingrassia was signed off from competing for 15 days by the event’s chief medical officer, Timo Kaukonen, after being diagnosed with mild concussion.
However, Ogier’s M-Sport World Rally Team and organisers have agreed to review the decision this evening, to give Ingrassia more time to recover, to see if the pair can restart tomorrow to chase points in the rally-closing live TV Power Stage.
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