Local knowledge pays off as Latvala grabs Finland lead

Jyväskylä (Finland) (AFP) –


Jari-Matti Latvala made local knowledge count by seizing the lead at the Rally of Finland on Friday as Japanese manufacturer Toyota took the two top spots.

Latvala leads Northern Ireland teammate Kris Meeke by just 1.2 seconds with another Finnish driver Esapekka Lappi in third, 2.4sec off the pace.

In 15 out of the last 16 years, Friday's overnight leader has gone on to win the Rally of Finland.

"There were couple of stages where I was a little bit down but generally I was able to keep the performance," said Latvala after an impressive drive through the tightly forested and rutted tracks in and around Jyvaskyla.

"When you are fighting all the time you have big pressure, and being able to keep fighting is the main thing. Tomorrow will be a big battle."

World championship leader Ott Tanak, who had led the rally in the morning action, ended the day in fourth, 2.6sec behind Latvala after struggling on the slippery gravel surface.

Six-time world champion Sebastien Ogier was down in seventh with a 15.3sec deficit on Latvala.

"I'm really satisfied. I think I did everything I could so I am happy with that. We are still quite early on the road tomorrow but it's close so we need to keep trying," said Ogier who confirmed on the eve of the race that next season will be his last in the championship.

Standings (after 11 stages):

1. Jari-Matti Latvala-Mikka Anttila (FIN/Toyota Yaris) 1:04:01, 2. Kris Meeke-Sebastian Marshall (GBR/Toyota Yaris) at 1.2, 3. Esapekka Lappi-Janne Ferm (FIN/Citroen C3) 2.4, 4. Ott Tanak-Martin Järveoja (EST/Toyota Yaris) 2.6, 5. Craig Breen-Paul Nagle (IRL/Hyundai i20) 14.2, 6. Andreas Mikkelsen-Anders Jaeger (NOR/Hyundai i20) 14.6, 7. Sebastien Ogier-Julien Ingrassia (FRA/Citroen C3) 15.3, 8. Thierry Neuville-Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL/Hyundai i20) 30.9, 9. Teemu Suninen-Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN/M-Sport Ford Fiesta) 52.6, 10. Gus Greensmith-Elliott Edmondson (GBR/M-Sport Ford Fiesta) 1:38.3