Meeke Makes History in Finland!

In winning the 2016 Rally Finland; formerly known as the 1000 Lakes Rally and Rally of the Thousand Lakes, Kris Meeke has become the first Briton to win this iconic round of the World Rally Championship in its 65 year history and only the 6th non-Scandinavian driver to do so.

Volkswagen's Jari-Matti Latvala was second and Meeke's Northern Irish team mate Craig Breen third, producing two very welcome podium places for Citroen. Meeke's victory was also his second consecutive victory in the two rallies he's competed as part of his limited 2016 WRC campaign after Portugal in May. It is only the third WRC win of Meeke's career.

Meeke and co-driver Paul Nagle made their break on Friday's stages and a consistent day allowed them to build an 18-second lead over Latvala, responding to consolidate his lead when Latvala upped his pace. Meeke then made a big break on Saturday morning's first stage Ouninpohja, pulling out 13.4s over the rest of the field and added a further 6s to his advantage at the start of Saturday afternoon before backing off on the final six stages of the rally to win by 29.1s and deny Latvala his third-straight win at home.

The fiercest battle of the rally was for third, eventually going to Craig Breen in the second PH Sport Citroen DS3 who emerged in third on Saturday afternoon after having had to drive slowly following Eric Camilli's crash, but a timing allowance negated his loss. Breen was gradually caught by DMACK driver Ott Tanak, who himself had challenged for the lead early in the rally before damaged suspension dropped him down the order on Friday and he dramatically crashed near the beginning of Oittila, bringing his weekend to an abrupt end.

A late charge from the Hyundais of Thierry Neuville and Hayden Paddon meant that Breen had to keep his composure, but he did enough on the final stage to hold on to third by 4.6s, securing his first WRC podium in only his fourth event and he later paid an emotional tribute to his former co-driver Gareth Roberts, who died in a crash in 2011.

Neuville and Paddon went into the final stage just 1.2s apart with the position eventually going to Neuville, who also grabbed maximum powerstage points with the fastest time ahead of Paddon. Mads Ostberg always looked like a place in the top five was just beyond him, the M-Sport driver eventually falling away on Sunday morning with a problem at the rear of his Ford Fiesta to finish sixth ahead of Norwegian compatriot Andreas Mikkelsen, who'd tumbled down the order after he had to run first on the road on Saturday because a brake problem delayed Sebastien Ogier at the start of the morning.

Ogier was already out of the reckoning after crashing on Friday, uncharacteristically finishing his weekend without a point, although this makes little difference to his championship lead! Finn Esapekka Lappi took WRC2 victory and was rewarded with three WRC points after finishing eighth, with Hyundai's third driver Kevin Abbring; standing in for Dani Sordo, between Lappi and WRC2 runner-up Teemu Suninen.

Results after SS24:
Pos .... Driver .... Team .... Car .... Gap
1. Meeke/Nagle Abu Dhabi Total WRT Citroen 2h38m05.8s
2. Latvala/Anttila Volkswagen Motorsport Volkswagen 29.1s
3. Breen/Martin Abu Dhabi Total WRT Citroen 1m41.3s
4. Neuville/Gilsoul Hyundai Motorsport Hyundai 1m45.9s
5. Paddon/Kennard Hyundai Motorsport Hyundai 1m48.2s
6. Ostberg/Floene M-Sport World Rally Team Ford 2m04.6s
7. Mikkelsen/Synnevaag Volkswagen Motorsport II 2m22.4s
8. Lappi/Ferm Skoda Motorsport Skoda 4m53.8s
9. Abbring/Marshall Hyundai Motorsport Hyundai 5m22.4s
10. Suninen/Markkula Team Oreca Skoda 5m35.5s

World Rally Championship Positions after round 8 of 14

1 Sebastien Ogier 143
2 Andreas Mikkelsen 98
3 Jari-Matti Latvala 87
4 Hayden Paddon 84
5 Thierry Neuville 76
6 Mads Ostberg 70
7 Dani Sordo 68
8 Ott Tanak 52
9 Kris Meeke 51
10 Craig Breen 25

1st August, 2016