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Kris Meeke wins Neste Rally Finland

//Kris Meeke wins Neste Rally Finland

Kris Meeke wins Neste Rally Finland

Kris Meeke became the first British driver to win the Finnish classic and only the sixth non-Nordic victor in the rally’s 65-year history. He led for almost every kilometre of the four-day gravel encounter in a Citroën DS 3, winning by 29.1 sec.

He shattered the hopes of Jari-Matti Latvala, bidding for his third consecutive victory in the FIA World Rally Championship’s fastest round, who finished 29.1sec behind in a Volkswagen Polo R. Ireland’s Craig Breen claimed a maiden podium, a further 1min 12.2sec back, in another DS 3.

Thierry Neuville won the final live TV Power Stage to claim three bonus points in a Hyundai i20. Team-mate Hayden Paddon took two points for second while Latvala secured the final point.

Sebastien Ogier (VW) remains on top of the WRC leaderboard, with Andreas Mikkelsen moving into second, with Jari-Matti Latvala back in third, VW Polo WRC cars taking the top three championship positions.

Aussie hopefuls Scott Pedder and Dale Moscatt finished a credible 17th outright after a weekend of struggling with setup for the flying Skoda Fabia.

After two days of mixed results at Rally Finland, Pedder went back to the drawing board overnight, making wholesale suspension changes to his Skoda Fabia R5 and in turn banking a string of top six fastest stage times in WRC2.

“We really had nothing to lose results wise, we were tenth in WRC2 overnight and with only four short stages to go today I thought it was time for a different approach,” explained Scott. “So we changed the setup quite dramatically back to one we ran in Portugal.”

The changes immediately yielded results, two fifth fastest stages times on the opening pair of stages this morning. “It’s frustrating in a way because it means the last couple of events we’ve been going in the wrong direction with the setup. Again it comes down to understanding how these cars behave to changes and then having plenty of time to test and confirm you’ve made the right choices.”

Pedder felt that a lack of testing contributed to issues during both Leg One and Two, and that the setup changes which included running a completely different spring, had made a massive difference. He also felt that the nature of today’s stages also played an important part.

“Today’s stages hadn’t been run before, so no one had an experience benefit. They also weren’t the fast and flowing type of stages you traditionally expect at Rally Finland, they were a lot more of a traditional gravel road,” he said.

On the repeat of the morning’s two stages Pedder and co-driver Dale Moscatt settled for sixth fastest in WRC2, before turning the wick right up for the final test of the rally, netting an impressive fourth quickest time.

“Today showed what we can do, running comfortably with the top five or six guys. 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,” beamed Scott.

Finishing in the top 20 at Rally Finland is an enormous achievement, despite the setbacks, all part of the climb to the WRC main game.

Pedder’s WRC2 campaign now hits a lengthy break until November’s Kennards Hire Rally Australia, where Pedder will be on home turf against his WRC2 rivals. “We believe the factory Skoda team, as well as Teemu Suninen, and a handful of the other regulars will make the trip to Coffs Harbour for the rally,” Scott commented.“At this stage we’re about half a second a kilometre of the top guys pace, I’m hopeful that on home soil we can bridge that gap and go even better. It’d be incredible to round the year out with a shot at a win in front of a home crowd!”

Rally Australia is the final round of the World Rally Championship and with only a handful of events remaining, a WRC champion may yet be crowned at the last round.
With tickets released for Kennards Hire Rally Australia, you won’t want to miss the action in  the Coffs Coast region. For up to date news find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Search @RallyAustralia.
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Chris Nixon

Chris Nixon is Media Manager for Kennards Hire Rally Australia.

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