SS4-5: Ouninpohja bites Finland hopefuls
The iconic Ouninpohja stage lived up to its reputation as one of the sport’s classic challenges on Friday morning as three top six drivers had their hopes of a strong Neste Oil Rally Finland result knocked off course.
Second-placed Kris Meeke struggled through the final 8km with a transmission problem in Citroën’s DS 3. The Ulsterman, who trailed leader Sébastien Ogier by just 0.4sec, dropped 5.3sec and 4.9sec in the following Himos test.
“It’s hard to tell with the transmission. I thought it was a driveshaft but it isn’t. It’s not as bad as I thought in Ouninpohja, but I can’t commit with the car and there’s not as much traction as earlier,” said Meeke who slipped to third, 10.6sec off the lead.
Ott Tänak continued to struggle in his Ford Fiesta RS with a broken damper after hitting a rock in SS3. He fell from fourth to 10th after losing nearly 90sec through both tests and said: “It’s not easy when you can’t jump on these roads.”
Team-mate Elfyn Evans conceded more than 90sec after damaging the rear suspension on his Fiesta RS 5km after the start. “I went wide and hit a rock in the ditch, we were lucky not to roll. It was OK for a while but the suspension broke soon after,” said the Welshman, who dropped a further 30sec in Himos to fall off the leaderboard from sixth.
Ogier was quickest in both tests to lead by 5.3sec from Volkswagen Polo R team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala, who relegated Meeke to third. Third in Ouninpohja promoted Mads Østberg to fourth in a DS 3, the Norwegian 6.0sec ahead of Hayden Paddon who was unhappy with the handling of his Hyundai i20.
Dani Sordo completed the top six in another i20, but the Spaniard was already 1min 07sec off the pace.
The first major retirement was sixth-placed Andreas Mikkelsen, who crashed his Polo R heavily early in Himos, while Robert Kubica’s morning of woe became worse with an alternator problem in his Fiesta RS.
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