Sunday, 31 July 2016

Rally - Flying in Finland

The Abu Dhabi Total WRT enjoyed a dream weekend in Finland, just as they did in Portugal, when Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle took victory at what was the fastest ever WRC rally, covered at a whopping average speed of 126.6kph! Having constantly improved since joining the team at the start of the year, Craig Breen and Scott Martin racked up their first WRC stage win on their way to third overall!

Having amassed a healthy 41s lead over Jari-Matti Latvala, Kris Meeke could afford to control his pace today, but the rally leader was also taking great interest in the progress of Craig Breen.

Third overall this morning, Craig was being chased by a bunch of heavyweight challengers with Ott Tänak, Thierry Neuville, Hayden Paddon and Mads Østberg all within about twenty seconds of the Irishman!

After his stage win on SS21, Tänak had closed to within 4.8s of the young Abu Dhabi Total WRT driver. The Estonian’s charge was brought to a halt when he went off the road on the next stage. Slightly unnerved to see his rival stopped by the roadside, Craig eased off, losing a few seconds and allowing Neuville to close to within 6.6s!

Buoyed by advice from the team, which encouraged him to defend his position, the Irishman set off on SS23 determined to go for it. At the end of Lempää 2, he claimed his first ever World Rally Championship stage win, a tenth of a second ahead of Paddon!

The final result marked the first time a British driver has won in Finland, and was underlined by another record, that of the fastest rally ever. In covering the 333.6km of timed stages in 2:38:05.8, Kris and Paul set a new record average speed of 126.6kph, that's 78.6mph in British money!

Sixth in the Power Stage, Craig Breen and Scott Martin retained enough of a lead to complete their dream weekend and claim their first ever WRC podium in only their fifth appearance in a World Rally Car!

At the finish Kris said: “For a WRC driver, winning Rally Finland is the ultimate goal before becoming World Champion. It’s an incredible feeling to win on the greatest roads in the world. This result was largely determined yesterday with the two runs on Ouninpohja. At the end of the first run, I didn’t know my time but I knew that I had driven really well. But I could hardly believe it when I found out that I gone thirteen seconds faster than Jari-Matti Latvala! Last year, in the other direction, he beat me by six seconds when I thought I had driven the perfect stage. That just goes to show the progress we have made, through a combination of work with the team and my growing experience. I also have to say that the car worked perfectly all weekend. We only did one day of testing, last Sunday, but that was enough for us to see that we already had the best set-up. I felt really confident right from the word go and that was a key factor in the win. This morning, I was totally relaxed. I just had to drive the last few stages to finish off the work that we had done in the first two days.”

Craig added: “It’s the best day of my career again. But it seems that with this car, every day is a bit better! When I grabbed third place yesterday afternoon, I already felt that I had moved up another level. There weren’t many kilometres left to complete today but it was still pretty tough because I was put under pressure by my rivals. I couldn’t be happier, claiming my first WRC stage win and finishing on the podium. The finish was very emotional. I couldn’t believe it, but it was fantastic to celebrate this moment with the people who have supported me. It’s also a richly-deserved result for the guys in the team, who had to work hard to repair the car after I went off during testing on Monday. I’ve taken a step closer to where I want to be this weekend.”

Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team will make its next appearance in the WRC at Rally China (9-11 September) with one car entered for Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle.

Leaderboard after 24 (of 24) stages:
1. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (DS 3 WRC) 2:38:05.8
2. Latvala / Anttila (VW Polo R WRC) +29.1
3. Breen / Martin (DS 3 WRC) +1:41.3
4. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:45.9
5. Paddon / Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:48.2
6. Østberg / Floene (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +2:04.6
7. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (VW Polo R WRC) +2:22.4
8. Lappi / Ferm (Skoda Fabia R5) +4:53.8
9. Abbring / Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) +5:22.4
10. Suninen / Markkula (Skoda Fabia R5) +5:35.5



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