Meeke edges Neuville in Rally Finland shakedown

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The Briton, returning to the Citroën Abu Dhabi Total line-up after being dropped for the previous round in Poland, produced the perfect start at a rally in which he gained a landmark victory 12 months ago.

Meeke pipped Thierry Neuville by a tenth of a second in the 4.62km Ruuhimäki speed test in his C3. Hyundai i20 driver Neuville was 0.4sec clear of Ott Tänak, the trio all posting their best times in their fourth pass.

“I was a little bit hesitant in the first run because our test here was compromised a lot by really heavy rain showers and we struggled to get any consistent conditions to do any work,” said Meeke.

“We started this morning with different bits and pieces on the car which I had even never had on before. The first few runs were tentative, but we did a lot of changes. It was like a test session for us again and the feeling became more and more confident.”

Estonian Tänak was the pacesestter in the first run in his Ford Fiesta, before Dani Sordo moved to the front in the second pass in his i20. Home hero Jari-Matti Latvala lowered the benchmark further in his third and final run before Meeke laid down the final marker.

Latvala’s time in his Toyota Yaris was good enough for fourth, only six-tenths behind Meeke. Sordo and Craig Breen completed the top six, with a second covering the leading sextet.

Championship leader Sébastien Ogier matched Meeke’s time but his run was disallowed as the Frenchman missed a chicane.

It wasn’t a good morning for Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Juho Hänninen. The Finn smashed his Yaris into a chicane during his opening run and broke the cooling package in the engine (below).

His car returned to the Jyväskylä service park by trailer and he played no further part in shakedown as mechanics made repairs ahead of this evening’s start.

Leading times were:

1. Kris Meeke Citroën C3 2min 14.3sec
2. Thierry Neuville Hyundai i20 + 0.1sec
3. Ott Tänak Ford Fiesta + 0.5sec
4. Jari-Matti Latvala Toyota Yaris + 0.6sec
5. Dani Sordo Hyundai i20 + 0.9sec
6. Craig Breen Citroën C3 + 1.0sec
7= Mads Østberg Ford Fiesta + 1.3sec
7= Hayden Paddon Hyundai i20 + 1.3sec
9. Sébastien Ogier Ford Fiesta + 1.5sec
10. Esapekka Lappi Toyota Yaris + 1.7sec