Mads Østberg – Torstein Eriksen and Craig Breen – Scott Martin finished first and second on this morning’s shakedown, the final practice session before competitive action kicks off this evening, whilst Khalid Al Qassimi and Chris Patterson, missing from the WRC since Rally Argentina in April, gradually regained their feeling in the car.
Setting fast times in the shakedown is not always a reliable indicator of performance in the race. However, confidence acquired in this final practice session always comes in handy. This is especially true in Finland, where the speeds reached and the closely-contested stages mean that drivers must be fully committed at all times. This morning, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT drivers showed that they had prepared well for this iconic rally.
In a C3 WRC that features an upgraded front axle geometry in Finland, supplementing the upgraded rear axle introduced in Argentina, Mads Østberg and Craig Breen were immediately among the leaders. They ended the session with the first and second fastest times, after three and five runs respectively. The Norwegian and the Irishman thus confirmed the set-up defined at the recent Rally Estonia and during four days of pre-event testing held in Finland afterwards. Meanwhile, Khalid Al Qassimi finished with the twelfth fastest time, upping his pace on each of his runs to gradually reduce the gap to the leading crews.
Although the rally kicks off officially this evening with the Harju super special stage (2.31km), the real action starts tomorrow with ten stages over a competitive distance of 126.37km, and that’s when the crews will need to confirm this morning’s fine performances.
WHAT THEY SAID
“It’s always good for confidence to show some real pace, but we have to keep our feet on the ground, especially given how strong our rivals are here. The most important thing for me was that I didn’t take any risks, I drove smoothly and the times came naturally. It’s now up to us to turn our pace into a good result in the race.”
“It’s important to have a good feeling in the shakedown. That proves that we did some good work in testing. I’m very happy with the balance of the car, with the additional upgrades introduced. I was able to up the pace on each run, so I feel confident for the race. Of course, this is my favourite rally of the year: even recce was enjoyable on these magnificent roads!”
Khalid Al Qassimi
“On my return to action after several months away from the WRC, I really enjoyed driving my C3 WRC this morning. The race will be a different matter altogether; you need to be so confident and committed on these stages, but it’s always positive to start the weekend like this.”
1. Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 WRC) 1:54.8
2. Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) 1:55.4
3. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) 1:55.9
4. Tänak / Jarveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 1:56.0
5. Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) 1:56.6
6. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 1:56.6
7. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) 1:56.7
8. Paddon / Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) 1:56.8
9. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 1:57.2
10. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) 1:57.3
11. Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) 1:57.8
12. Al Qassimi / Patterson (Citroën C3 WRC) 2:00.9