Kris Meeke has completed an impressive victory at the Rally Finland and in the process becoming the first British driver to win the famous event.
In what was his second win of the year and third of his career, in a season where he is only competing part-time as Citroen prepares for the next-generation World Rally Car from 2017.
On a great event for Citroen young Irish up and comer Craig Breen finished third, with only two-time defending Rally Finland winner Jari-Matti Latvala in-between.
“A little bit crazy to be honest. This is the home of rallying,” said Meeke.
“To win it and the way we did it. I’ve been enjoying it like a small kid. Playing and having fun. What can I say it’s just been exceptional.
“We have always known that the Citroen DS3 was very strong here. In previous years I have only been able to hang onto the coattails of Jari-Matti and Seb (Ogier) here. Something just clicked from the first corner in this rally here. Team effort – top job.”
A protégé of the late great Colin McRae, Meeke has been trying to win in Finland since 2003. Unlike McRae and also the likes of Richard Burns and Roger Clarke, no other British driver had been able to taste success on the ultra-fast roads of central Finland. He is the sixth non-Finnish winner of the event since 2000.
The final day was straightforward for Meeke and second place man Latvala, but the battle for the final position on the podium intensified when Ott Tanak crashed out early in the day.
Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville attacked to finish just 4.6sec behind Breen, while Kiwi Hayden Paddon was just another 2.3sec back in another Hyundai.
“We were the fastest overall today and to get in the top five was good,” said Paddon.
“It’s obviously been trying with the road cleaning over the first two days and we lost a bit too much time earlier on in the rally. We gave it our all but we’ve struggled with the car in the slippery conditions. But considering everything, it’s not a bad result.
“It was a close fight with Thierry and I’ve really enjoyed these fantastic stages It’s good points and we’re closing in on the guys at the front of the championship.”
Neuville took the bonus points on the final TV stage from Paddon and Latvala.
Australia’s Scott Pedder completed the event with an eighth place finish in WRC2 and 17th outright.
“Today showed what we can do, running comfortably with the top five or six guys,” said Pedder.
“In hindsight this weekend went much the same way as our previous events, by Sunday we’re showing what we’re capable of. Unfortunately we need to be doing that from the very first stage on Friday, not by the very last stage on Sunday.
“In the end though a pretty good result considering the problems we had. To come to Finland, the spiritual home of rallying, on only our second ever time and finish within the top twenty outright on both occasions is actually quite remarkable.”
FINAL POSITIONS: Rally Finland
|1||Kris Meeke||Abu Dhabi Total WRT||Citroen||2:38:05.8|
|2||Jari-Matti Latvala||Volkswagen Motorsport||Volkswagen||+0:29.1|
|3||Craig Breen||Abu Dhabi Total WRT||Citroen||+1:41.3|
|4||Thierry Neuville||Hyundai Motorsport||Hyundai||+1:45.9|
|5||Hayden Paddon||Hyundai Motorsport||Hyundai||+1:48.2|
|6||Mads Ostberg||M-Sport World Rally Team||Ford||+2:04.6|
|7||Andreas Mikkelsen||Volkswagen Motorsport II||Volkswagen||+2:22.4|
|8||Esapekka Lappi||Skoda Motorsport||Skoda||+4:53.8|
|9||Kevin Abbring||Hyundai Motorsport N||Hyundai||+5:22.4|
|10||Teemu Suninen||Team Oreca||Skoda||+5:35.5|
VIDEO: Rally review