Irish duo Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle claimed an historic win in Rally Finland on Sunday, securing their third WRC victory and second this season after a dominant drive in the DS3 WRC. Local heroes Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila were unable to claim a hat-trick of victories on their home rally but took second in the Polo R WRC, while Ireland’s Craig Breen, co-driven by Britain’s Scott Martin, claimed their first-ever WRC podium by finishing third overall in the sister DS3 WRC.
An elated winning driver, Meeke, said: “It will take a few days and weeks for it to properly sink in, but you almost dream that someday you could do something special in the World Rally Championship. In terms of rally wins I don’t know how you can get much better than this because, yeah, the ultimate goal is obviously to try and be World Rally Champion but like I said, in terms of rally wins and to do it this way, to really make a difference on the most famous stage in the World Championship…”
Co-driver Paul Nagle summed up the success by saying: “It’s been a fantastic weekend. I think we started out on the right foot and all weekend there was no looking back. Yesterday evening (Saturday), like we did in Portugal, we consolidated our position and today was a good steady Sunday drive through the stages with no big dramas.”
In the FIA World Rally Championship, Championship leader Sébastien Ogier failed to score points for the first time since Spain 2015 but the reigning World Champion continues to lead the standings by 45 points. Team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen retains second and Jari-Matti Latvala rounds off a one-two-three in the Championship standings for Volkswagen. In the Manufacturers’ Championship, the German manufacturer claimed maximum points with Latvala, Meeke’s Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team not registered for points this season. Volkswagen therefore continues to lead with a 59 point advantage over Hyundai Motorsport.
Sunday’s route was the shortest of the event and took in two identical loops of two stages covering 33.96 kilometres. With a healthy overnight advantage, Meeke was able to control the pace at the head of the field and only lost 10.1 of his 41 second lead to claim the most significant victory of his career. Despite being in his own backyard, Latvala was simply unable to match the Ulsterman’s pace throughout the event and was denied a third consecutive home win in the Polo R WRC. Breen has shone all weekend and he claimed his first fastest WRC stage time as well as his best-ever WRC result. Of the leading trio, he was the only one to have to keep pushing, such was the gap to a chasing Thierry Neuville and Hayden Paddon. He ultimately finished just 4.6 seconds ahead of Neuville after 333.60 kilometres of competition.
Neuville inched up the leaderboard after the second stage following the retirement of Ott Tanak. Nevertheless, he had a fight to the finish on his hands with team-mate Paddon, who finished just 2.3 seconds adrift in the sister Hyundai i20 WRC, the Power Stage win securing the position for Neuville. Mads Østberg struggled with the handling of his Fiesta RS WRC in the penultimate stage but made it to the finish in sixth position. After running first on the road yesterday, following Ogier’s brake problems, Andreas Mikkelsen finished a disappointing seventh.
The FIA World Rally Championship now heads to Germany’s tarmac event in Trier from 18-21 August.