WRC Rally Finland: Kris Meeke becomes event's first British winner

Kris Meeke became the first Briton to win Rally Finland as he clinched victory on the latest round of the World Rally Championship ahead of Volkswagen's Jari-Matti Latvala

WRC Rally Finland: Kris Meeke becomes event's first British winner

Citroen driver Meeke's victory was also his second in as many rallies in his part-time 2016 WRC campaign after winning in Portugal in May, and the third of his career.

Meeke and co-driver Paul Nagle laid the groundwork for their win on Friday after a consistent run allowed them to build an 18-second lead over Latvala, who damaged a tyre on the Jukojarvi stage and dropped 16s.

The Briton maintained that advantage throughout Friday afternoon, responding when Latvala upped his pace in his Polo R WRC, but made a big break on Saturday morning's first stage Ouninpohja, pulling out 13.4s over the rest of the field.

Meeke added a further 6s to that advantage at the start of Saturday afternoon before backing off on the final six stages of the rally, eventually winning by 29.1s to deny Latvala a third-straight win at home.

The fiercest battle to be resolved on the final leg was for third, which eventually went the way of an emotional Craig Breen in the second PH Sport Citroen DS3.

Breen emerged in third on Saturday afternoon after a slow stage time was rectified - having had to drive slowly after an Eric Camilli crash - but he was gradually caught by DMACK driver Ott Tanak, who himself had challenged for the lead early on before damaged suspension dropped him down the order on Friday.

Tanak looked poised to challenge Breen on Sunday morning's second stage but dramatically crashed near the beginning of Oittila, bringing his weekend to an abrupt end.

That looked to have given third to Breen, but a late charge from the Hyundais of Thierry Neuville and Hayden Paddon meant the Irishman had to have his wits about him.

In the end, Breen did enough on the final stage to hold on to third by 4.6s, securing his first WRC podium in just his fourth event.

Breen paid tribute to his former co-driver Gareth Roberts, who died in a crash in 2011, as he secured a one-three for Citroen.

Neuville and Paddon had been inseparable from Saturday morning, and went into the final stage just 1.2s apart.

The position was eventually settled in favour of Neuville, who also grabbed maximum powerstage points with the fastest time ahead of Paddon.

Mads Ostberg flirted with that fight for much of Saturday but always looked like a place in the top five was just beyond him.

The M-Sport driver eventually fell away on Sunday morning, complaining of a problem at the rear of his Ford Fiesta, and finished a lonely sixth ahead of Norwegian compatriot Andreas Mikkelsen.

A podium contender early on, Mikkelsen tumbled away dramatically when he had to run first on the road on Saturday because a brake problem delayed Sebastien Ogier at the start of the morning.

Ogier was already down the order after crashing on Friday, and finished the weekend without a point - though it made little difference to his championship lead.

Finn Esapekka Lappi took a dominant WRC2 victory and was rewarded with three championship points after finishing eighth, with Hyundai's third driver Kevin Abbring - standing in for Dani Sordo - a buffer between Lappi and WRC2 runner-up Teemu Suninen.

LEADING FINISHERS AFTER SS24:

Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1 Kris Meeke, P.Nagle Abu Dhabi Total WRT Citroen 2h38m05.8s
2 Jari-Matti Latvala, M.Anttila Volkswagen Motorsport Volkswagen 29.1s
3 Craig Breen, S.Martin Abu Dhabi Total WRT Citroen 1m41.3s
4 Thierry Neuville, N.Gilsoul Hyundai Motorsport Hyundai 1m45.9s
5 Hayden Paddon, J.Kennard Hyundai Motorsport Hyundai 1m48.2s
6 Mads Ostberg, O.Floene M-Sport World Rally Team Ford 2m04.6s
7 Andreas Mikkelsen, A.Jager Volkswagen Motorsport II Volkswagen 2m22.4s
8 Esapekka Lappi, J.Ferm Skoda Motorsport Skoda 4m53.8s
9 Kevin Abbring, S.Marshall Hyundai Motorsport N Hyundai 5m22.4s
10 Teemu Suninen, M.Markkula Team Oreca Skoda 5m35.5s

LEADING POWERSTAGE TIMES:

Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1 Thierry Neuville, N.Gilsoul Hyundai Motorsport Hyundai 4m35.8s
2 Hayden Paddon, J.Kennard Hyundai Motorsport Hyundai 1.1s
3 Jari-Matti Latvala, M.Anttila Volkswagen Motorsport Volkswagen 1.5s
4 Andreas Mikkelsen, A.Jager Volkswagen Motorsport II Volkswagen 1.7s
5 Sebastien Ogier, J.Ingrassia Volkswagen Motorsport Volkswagen 2.9s

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Pos Driver Points
1 Sebastien Ogier 143
2 Andreas Mikkelsen 98
3 Jari-Matti Latvala 87
4 Hayden Paddon 84
5 Thierry Neuville 76
6 Mads Ostberg 70
7 Dani Sordo 68
8 Ott Tanak 52
9 Kris Meeke 51
10 Craig Breen 25
11 Eric Camilli 24
12 Henning Solberg 14
13 Stephane Lefebvre 10
14 Martin Prokop 10
15 Teemu Suninen 9
16 Marcos Ligato 6
17 Elfyn Evans 6
18 Esapekka Lappi 6
19 Lorenzo Bertelli 4
20 Kevin Abbring 4
21 Pontus Tidemand 2
22 Jan Kopecky 2
23 Nicolas Fuchs 2
24 Armin Kremer 1
25 Valeriy Gorban 1
26 Karl Kruuda 1


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WRC Rally Finland: Kris Meeke takes big lead into final day

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