Team Citroën Racing’s Breen still in the hunt on Rally Finland
Including the jumps of the famous Ouninpohja stage, day two of Rally Finland saw Craig Breen and Scott Martin remain among the leaders. The Irish-British crew lie fifth overall, within half a minute of second place.
Today’s second leg featured four stages, with two runs on each one: Pihlajakoski (SS14/SS20), Päijälä (SS15/SS21), Ouninpohja (SS16/SS19) and Saalahti (SS17/SS18). The unusual feature of the day concerned the sequence of the stages, which changed between the first and second loops.
On the day’s opening stage, Kris Meeke felt there was still something not right about the steering on his car, which was damaged yesterday in hitting a rock. The British driver was forced to cope with this issue throughout the morning. After moving up into eighth position following Østberg’s issues on Ouninpohja 1, he then lost some ground behind Thierry Neuville.
Fourth overall at the end of the opening leg, Craig Breen was surprised that the level of grip was lower than on day one. With the set-up not so well suited to these road conditions, he made a couple of minor mistakes, overshooting at one corner. He dropped to sixth place, but remained within a few seconds of his direct rivals.
After the mid-leg service, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT drivers were more comfortable. They both gained a place on Ouninpohja 2, following the retirement of Latvala. They above all showed the performance level of the C3 WRC on the most demanding stage of the season. With just a few tenths separating them, Meeke nestled between Neuville and Tänak, who drove the stage with identical road conditions.
The final stage of the day, Päijäilä 2 threw up a number of incidents. Khalid Al Qassimi ran wide into a ditch, hitting some large rocks, but managed to make it to the end. A few minutes later, Kris Meeke arrived at the end of the stage with substantial damage to the front right-hand side of his car, due to the tyre exploding after a puncture. After changing the wheel, he completed the final stage and made it to Jyväskylä for the end-of-day service.
Combining performance and consistency throughout the second loop, Craig Breen ended the day in fifth position, 27.8s adrift of Suninen in second place. Meanwhile, Kris Meeke dropped back to eighth place, whilst Khalid Al Qassimi was seventeenth in the team’s third car.
Tomorrow, the third and final day of Rally Finland will be very short, with four stages covering just 33.84km. The Power Stage, broadcast live on television, is due to start at 1.18pm.
Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal: “Once again, the performance level of the Citroën C3 WRC was highlighted: especially on Ouninpohja 2, when Kris Meeke matched the pace of the last two rally winners. Having said that, we know that we are still slightly behind in terms of performance in low-grip conditions. We saw that especially with Craig Breen this morning. Despite this, he stayed with the leaders. With this new generation of World Rally Cars, it would appear that good knowledge of the Finnish roads has become a substantial advantage again for the local drivers. Which makes Craig’s performance all the more impressive. I hope he manages to round off this fine race with a good result tomorrow. He will be free to push according to his feeling in the car.”
Craig Breen: “It’s been something of an up and down day, a bit like the roads here in Finland! I thought I could have been a bit faster in places, but I had a bit of trouble with the set-up we chose for the morning. It was better this afternoon, when there was more grip, but it still wasn’t perfect. I feel like we’re further away from the podium, but we’re still only thirty seconds off second place. If luck is on our side tomorrow, we might be able to move up the standings.”
Kris Meeke: “Every year it’s the same. Ouninpohja is simply one of the best rally stages, an incredible piece of road. The level of grip was good this afternoon and I was able to push because I had a good feeling in the car. We changed quite a few things on the set-up during the mid-leg service and we got some interesting information for the future, so that was pretty positive. On the final stage, we picked up a puncture after hitting a stone. I wanted to keep pushing but the tyre exploded, causing some fairly serious-looking damage. But it wasn’t all that serious.”
UNOFFICIAL STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2
Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:13:02.7
Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) +49.1
Hänninen / Lindstrom (Toyota Yaris WRC) +53.4
Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +54.7
Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:16.9
Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:31.6
Tänak / Jarveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2:07.5
Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) +2:59.1
Sordo / Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC) +3:54.0
Østberg / Floene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +4:23.6
Al Qassimi / Patterson (Citroën C3 WRC) +13:36.6