Kris Meeke tames Ouninpohja!.

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2016 -WRC Finland (FIN) - WRC 28/07/2016 to 31/07/2016 - PHOTO : @World

Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle extended their lead in the overall standings on day two of Rally Finland. The Abu Dhabi Total WRT crew were in scintillating form on both runs on Ouninpohja, one of the most famous stages in the WRC. Craig Breen and Scott Martin also produced a superb performance to end the day in the final podium spot.

30 July 2016

The longest leg of Rally Finland, day two took the crews and teams near to Ouninpohja, 70kms to the south-west of Jyväskylä. Without any preliminaries, the cars set off on this 33km-long stage, considered by many drivers to be akin to riding on a rollercoaster! This year, the stage was made especially challenging by the fact that the series of fast bends, crests and jumps was contested in the opposite direction to recent editions of the rally. The drivers therefore had to alter their markers and references during recce.

As soon as the first splits appeared on the timesheets, it was obvious that Kris Meeke had decided to put in a big performance. Barely out of breath at the end of the stage, the Ulsterman was clearly delighted to learn he had beaten Jari-Matti Latvala by a remarkable 13.4 seconds, a huge margin in the context of this rally! With one telling blow, he had extended his overall lead beyond the thirty-second mark.

Kris eased off slightly to take second place on Päijälä (SS14), before notching yet another stage win on Pihlajakoski (sS15). As he arrived for the mid-leg service, the leader was some 36.4s ahead of Latvala.

A good distance back from the top two, the third placed driver was no other than Craig Breen, who had also enjoyed a spectacular morning! Fifth at the start of the day, the Irishman was fourth by the end of Ouninpohja after he moved ahead of Thierry Neuville. On the next stage, he gained another position after Andreas Mikkelsen went off.

The team was not about to get carried away, however, as the stages still needed to be run again in the afternoon! Rain had been forecast for the last few days and a few showers finally fell on the gravel roads in the afternoon, but they didn’t hamper the progress of the Abu Dhabi Total WRT drivers.

Kris was fastest again on Ouninpohja 2 – with a time that was around ten seconds better than this morning’s run – and on Päijälä 2. The day ended with the Northern Irishman holding a 41s lead over the second-placed driver, a fairly comfortable lead considering the limited number of kilometres left to complete tomorrow.

Despite coming under pressure from the charging Ott Tänak, Craig Breen remained focused on his initial aim. Meeting perfectly the expectations of the team, he combined speed and consistency to hold onto third place overall. On Saalahti 2 (SS20), he even hit back at the Estonian by bettering his time to maintain a 9.1s lead in the overall standings.

After another error-free day, Khalid Al Qassimi moved up the standings. The Abu Dhabi driver ended the leg in 19th position, having enjoyed the challenge provided by the iconic stages in the land of a thousand lakes!

Tomorrow, the competitors will enter the home straight, with four short stages over a total of just 33.96km. The rally is scheduled to finish in Jyväskylä at 3pm.


Kris Meeke (#7): “Yesterday was my best day in a WRC. But that wasn’t the case for long, because today has surpassed it! This morning, I got up an hour early today to watch the video of my recce on Ouninpohja. I think it’s the greatest stage in the world, and the most iconic as well. So I was really determined to do something special on it! I knew Jari-Matti Latvala would try to close the gap so I had to push really hard… At the end, I felt that I couldn’t have done any more. But I was still surprised when I found out just how big the gap was! In the afternoon, the rain tended to improve the grip and I was able to go even quicker, but it wasn’t quite as exciting as the first pass. We’re now in a good position to see out the win. We’ll have to stay focused to manage our lead tomorrow and finish the job we have done over the last two days.”

Craig Breen (#8): “I never thought I’d be fighting for a podium place before the start of this rally! This morning, I learned a lot during the first run on Ouninpohja. I then didn’t complete SS14 because it was cancelled after Lorenzo Bertelli’s crash. We kept improving though and we had already moved up into third by the mid-leg point. I did feel a little bit of extra pressure for the second loop due to my position. As was to be expected, I lost a bit of time on the stage that I hadn’t contested this morning. But I was pleased to hit back at Ott Tänak on SS20. He knows that I will try to defend my position tomorrow, even though I won’t go over the limit to do so. Once again, I’m delighted with how things are going for me!”

Khalid Al Qassimi (#24): “The start of the day was difficult, with SS13 being cancelled after we had started driving on it. I made good progress in the afternoon, despite the weather conditions which made the stages very slippery in places. At the same time, I was thinking a lot about the performances of Kris and Craig. They are both enjoying a really great race and I’m delighted to see them so well placed this evening. I hope we can secure a great result for the Abu Dhabi Total team tomorrow.”


1. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (DS 3 WRC) 2:22:00.8
2. Latvala / Anttila (VW Polo R WRC) +41.0
3. Breen / Martin (DS 3 WRC) +1:45.4
4. Tänak / Molder (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:54.5
5. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:00.9
6. Paddon / Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:03.6
7. Østberg / Floene (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +2:06.0
8. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (VW Polo R WRC) +2:24.0
9. Lappi / Ferm (Skoda Fabia R5) +4:23.6
10. Suninen / Markkula (Skoda Fabia R5) +5:10.5
… 19. Al Qassimi / Patterson (DS 3 WRC) +10:59.4

Jérôme Roussel
Media Abu Dhabi Total WRT

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Photos : André Lavadinho / @World

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