SS15-16-17: Latvala’s clean sweep
1-2-3 for Toyota and home drivers in Finland
Jari-Matti Latvala headed a 1-2-3 for Toyota Gazoo Racing and home drivers after stamping his authority on Neste Rally Finland on Saturday morning.
The Finn won all four special stages to relegate Esapekka Lappi and return to service in Jyväskylä with a 7.8sec lead in his Yaris World Rally Car.
Juho Hänninen completed a great morning for the team, whose home is just a few kilometres from the rally base, by climbing to third. He is 50.0sec behind Lappi.
Having slashed Lappi’s overnight lead to 0.6sec in the opening Pihlajakoski speed test, Latvala moved ahead with victory in Päijälä. He followed up with fastest time in the famous Ouninpohja and rounded off the morning by going quickest in the short Saalahti.
“It’s been a great morning. Starting further down the order means I can see the braking points and use the broken surface more. I started to concentrate more on driving the straight lines, yesterday I was more sideways,” Latvala explained.
Lappi was frustrated at giving second best to his colleague by 2.5sec in Ouninpohja, regarded as the sport’s biggest test of bravery and commitment.
“It was really enjoyable but the time wasn’t good enough,” he said. “I know I lost time in the last junction but otherwise it was a pretty clean run. I wasn’t even close to him.
“I don’t care if he has won this rally once or three times, I want to be faster. If I push more I will not stay on the road. I don’t know where he is finding the time but it’s not over!”
Teemu Suninen yielded third after missing an Ouninpohja chicane and having to turn his Ford Fiesta around. He lost 20sec to trail Hänninen by 1.4sec and head an impressive Elfyn Evans by 5.0sec, the Welshman joining an absorbing podium battle after climbing from seventh to fifth.
Craig Breen left service this morning in fourth but returned in sixth. A Päijälä spin allied to a loss of confidence with his Citroën C3’s grip left the Irishman ahead of a still frustrated Thierry Neuville, whose Hyundai i20 was bottoming out.
Kris Meeke, Ott Tänak and Dani Sordo completed the leaderboard, Meeke struggling with his C3’s handling and likening it to a rear-wheel drive car.
Mads Østberg dropped off the leaderboard after crashing his Fiesta into an Ouninpohja ditch and hitting a rock. The impact damaged the suspension and brakes and the Norwegian completed Saalahti with front wheel braking only.
Hayden Paddon retired for the second time this weekend in Päijälä after clattering into a rock and breaking his i20’s suspension.
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