Day 1: Crews face uphill battle after challenging Friday
The opening stages of Rally Finland have certainly lived up to the events reputation as one of the fastest and fiercest events on the WRC calendar.
Impressive top speeds and breathtaking jumps truly make it a rally of highs and lows. Unfortunately for our team, following the elation of our 1-2 in Poland earlier in July, we experienced a reality check on the first full day in Finland.
After 13 special stages in total, Thierry and Nicolas hold eighth, Dani and Marc are in 11th, while Hayden and Seb were forced to retire with suspension damage.
Hayden and Seb started the rally brightly, setting a top-three time in SS2, the first run through the 7.65km Halinen stage.
They were just 1.1-seconds off the lead heading into SS4 (Jukojärvi), when a slight misjudgement had major repercussions.
We ran slightly wide on the same corner several other drivers did, explained Hayden. Unfortunately, a rock hit back and we broke our suspension. It wasnt a huge amount of damage but enough to end our day.
Our team of mechanics are able to repair the damage to get our Anglo-Kiwi duo back into the rally on Saturday. Hayden added: The speed of the car is good and we were competitive. Well be back under Rally 2 on Saturday.
Another driver who experienced issues in SS4 was Championship leader Séb Ogier. The Frenchman is the driver they all need to beat for this seasons title, with Thierry his closest challenger.
Three-times winners so far in 2017, our Belgian crew could not take full advantage of the opportunity afforded by Ogiers woes.
We have been struggling to find the required rhythm, said Thierry. My focus now is on moving up the classification to the top-five, and reduce the points gap to Ogier. This rally is not over yet.
A stage win in Fridays final test, SS13 Harju, set a more positive outlook for Saturdays running.
For Dani and Marc, it was an unusual day off the pace in their i20 Coupe WRC. In Finland, more than anywhere else, you need to have full commitment inside the car; the smallest of lifts can make a huge difference on the timesheets.
First to the Finnish
We knew this would be a demanding rally, an event where we have yet to score a podium finish.
Our Team Principal Michel summarised: We will analyse closely where we are lacking performance in an effort to do better tomorrow.
Saturday will see a total of eight stages run over a distance of 132.34km. Crews will tackle four separate stages, including: Pihlajakoski (14.90km), Päijäla (22.68km), the classic Ouninpohja (24.38km) and the short 4.21km run through Saalahti.
Classification after Day One
1 E. Lappi/J. Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) 1:11:36.4
2 J. M. Latvala/M. Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +4.4
3 T. Suninen/M. Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) +19.0
4 C. Breen/S. Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) +33.0
5 J. Hänninen/K. Lindström (Toyota Yaris WRC) +39.1
6 M. Østberg/T. Eriksen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +45.0
7 E. Evans/D. Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +45.1
8 T. Neuville/N. Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +58.0
9 K. Meeke/P. Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:07.6
10 O. Tänak/M. Järveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:50.2
11 D. Sordo/M. Martí (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1:52.5