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THIERRY Neuville outgunned FIA World Rally Championship leader Ott Tänak to lead Neste Rally Finland after winning Thursday night’s spectacular opening speed test in host city Jyväskylä.

PHOTO: Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

The Belgian, armed with aerodynamic improvements to his Hyundai i20 for the weekend, was fastest through the 2.31km mixed surface Harju special stage in a city park by 0.7sec.

“We’ve worked hard since the beginning of the year, especially for this event. I hope this will benefit us at some point. I’m well prepared and I want to bring back a good result from Finland for the team,” Neuville said.

Championship leader Tänak, who lies seven points clear of Neuville, is hot favourite to win but must open the slippery gravel roads on Friday in his Toyota Yaris. He finished 0.5sec clear of teammate Kris Meeke.

“It will be a tough day tomorrow and we need to manage it. Let’s see what is possible, but for sure, we will try,” Tänak said.

The action switches to the forests on Friday morning as drivers tackle a loop of five stages, four of which are repeated in the afternoon. A reprise of Harju rounds out the day after 126.47km of competition.

End of day one (Thursday):

1 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) 1m47.3s
2 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +0.7s
3 Kris Meeke/Seb Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1.2s
4 Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +1.3s
5 Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger-Amland (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +2.2s
6 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +2.4s
7 Teemu Suninen/Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2.4s
8 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2.4s
9 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +3.1s
10 Kalle Rovanpera/Jonne Halttunen (Skoda Fabia R5 Evo) +4.8s

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Chris Nixon

Chris Nixon is Media Manager for Kennards Hire Rally Australia.

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