Toyota’s Ott Tanak holds a narrow Rally Finland lead over the resurgent Citroen of Mads Ostberg, while World Rally Championship leader Thierry Neuville is only 10th after making a mistake.
Before the weekend, Neuville had insisted that his focus was on protecting his 27-point WRC standings cushion over Sebastien Ogier on an event where his Hyundai team struggled last year and where he would spend Friday running first on dusty roads.
Initially ninth to Ogier’s seventh, Neuville gained one place when his team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen lost three minutes due to a trip off the road on third stage of the morning – Assamaki – but then made his own mistake on the following Aanekoski stage.
Admitting he was distracted by thinking about correcting an over-optimistic pace note at a previous corner, Neuville braked too late and spun.
He clipped a tree and lost half a minute getting to the end of the stage, which left him over a minute off the lead in 10th and 40 seconds away from seventh-placed Ogier.
At the front, Tanak initially looked like he would storm away from the field – despite his third place on the road not being ideal for the conditions.
But Ostberg – who had declared after topping Thursday’s shakedown that the revised Citroen could win this weekend – stayed with Tanak and briefly moved into a 0.5s lead by setting the pace on SS4.
But minor mistakes on the morning’s final stage meant Ostberg dropped back to second, with Tanak heading to service 1.1s ahead.
Jari-Matti Latvala admitted that he was feeling the pressure of being on home ground at the start of the day and that this contributed to a slow start.
Two subsequent stage wins moved him up from fourth to third, and he is within 10.8s of his rally-leading team-mate Tanak.
Teemu Suninen was fourth until a mistake at the end of Aanekoski dropped him to fifth behind Hayden Paddon – Hyundai’s top runner.
That means the three M-Sport Fords run 5-6-7, with Elfyn Evans between Suninen and Ogier.
Last year’s Finland winner Esapekka Lappi lost touch with the leaders immediately when his Toyota stalled under braking on the morning’s opener.
He is 49s off the lead in eighth. Citroen has the pace to have two drivers fighting for victory, but Craig Breen is already in a recovery drive after picking up a puncture early on the day’s first stage.
Even with a string of rapid stage times thereafter, Breen is 54s from the front in ninth.
Leading positions after SS5
|1||Ott Tanak, M.Jarveoja||Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT||Toyota||27m22.2s|
|2||Mads Ostberg, T.Eriksen||Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT||Citroen||1.1s|
|3||Jari-Matti Latvala, M.Anttila||Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT||Toyota||10.8s|
|4||Hayden Paddon, S.Marshall||Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT||Hyundai||14.8s|
|5||Teemu Suninen, M.Markkula||M-Sport Ford WRT||Ford||16.4s|
|6||Elfyn Evans, D.Barritt||M-Sport Ford WRT||Ford||25.7s|
|7||Sebastien Ogier, J.Ingrassia||M-Sport Ford WRT||Ford||28.7s|
|8||Esapekka Lappi, J.Ferm||Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT||Toyota||49.1s|
|9||Craig Breen, S.Martin||Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT||Citroen||54.0s|
|10||Thierry Neuville, N.Gilsoul||Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT||Hyundai||1m07.5s|