FINN Jari-Matti Latvala delighted his home fans by posting fastest time in the Shakedown session for Neste Oil Rally Finland today.
The Volkswagen Motorsport driver was quickest by 0.6sec from Mads Østberg’s Citroen DS3 over the 4.19km Laajavuori test around the ski jump on the edge of host city Jyväskylä.
Latvala, rally winner in 2010, heads the home challenge bidding to end a run of three consecutive victories by French drivers on an event traditionally dominated by Finns.
“After the rain earlier this week the ground was soft,” said Latvala.
“The grip was good but the soft surface asked for a lot of power. Generally the car felt really good to drive over the mountain, so no changes. Two runs and a happy feeling before the start.
“I have really good motivation. There are so many spectators here supporting us so I hope to be able to fight for the victory.
“If I don’t do it, I hope a Finn can win because it has been four years since the last victory and we start to feel it here,” added the Polo R pilot.
Team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen was third, 0.9sec behind Latvala, with Henning Solberg posting fourth fastest time on his fifth run through the stage in a Ford Fiesta RS. He was 1.6sec off the pace.
Finns Mikko Hirvonen and Juho Hänninen completed the top six in a Fiesta RS and Hyundai i20 respectively.
The rally, round eight of the WRC that comes to Australia on 11-14 September, starts just after 4pm Thursday with a Super Special Stage.