GOOD FEELINGS FOR THE CITROËN DRIVERS
Held on the famous Ruuhimäki stage, this morning's Rally Finland shakedown proved to be a positive outing for the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT. Kris Meeke topped the timesheets, whilst Craig Breen set the sixth fastest time. Armed with a good feeling in the car, the C3 WRC drivers head into round nine of the season in confident mood.
In contrast to the recent variable weather, conditions remained dry throughout the morning. The first cars were out at eight o'clock to tackle the 4.62km-long Ruuhimäki shakedown stage.
Kris Meeke was one of the hardest-working drivers, completing five runs during the course of the morning. The Northern Irishman was pleased with the handling of his C3 WRC, fitted with the latest upgrades developed by Citroën Racing, and he set the fastest time (2:14.3) on his fourth attempt.
Meanwhile, Craig Breen completed four runs. Like his team-mate, he was happy with the handling of the car. His time of 2:15.3 was the sixth fastest of the morning.
At his second rally of the season, Khalid Al Qassimi was above all looking to get back up to speed in the C3 WRC. Between his first and fifth run, the Abu Dhabi driver gained more than ten seconds!
Rally Finland is due to get underway this evening. Following the short Harju stage (2.31km), contested from 7pm, the cars will then head directly into parc ferme. Friday's opening leg promises to be a genuine marathon, featuring twelve stages spread out over fifteen hours.
Kris Meeke: "Often, the shakedown isn't particularly representative of the stages of the rally. But here, it was perfect with an opening portion on fairly narrow, winding roads, followed by the famous Ruuhimäki section, which has jumps that are similar to those on Ouninpohja. So it was perfect for working on things, especially after our pre-event testing was hampered by the rain. This morning, with the conditions finally constant, I was able to assess the upgrades that have been made to the car. I'm still learning and working on a few things, but the feeling in the car is good. There are still some improvements we can make to the set-up."
Craig Breen: "I feel very comfortable in the C3 WRC. It was nice to have a good feeling after pre-event testing, which was pretty tough due to the weather. Recce was also disrupted by the rain, so it was useful to have dry conditions this morning. We made some changes to the set-up after the first two runs and I managed to improve on my third attempt. The shakedown helped boost my confidence."
Khalid Al Qassimi: "It wasn't easy for me this morning, I had trouble finding any traction. We made a lot of changes to the set-up but they didn't really have the desired effect, so we'll just have to live with what we have. I think that I need to drive the car to try and improve, taking it step by step. Unlike Kris and Craig, I tested in dry conditions, so I hope that there won't be too much rain this weekend."
1. Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) 2:14.3
2. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2:14.4
3. Tänak / Jarveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) 2:14.8
4. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:14.9
5. Sordo / Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2:15.2
6. Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) 2:15.3
7. Østberg / Floene (Ford Fiesta WRC) 2:15.6
= Paddon / Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2:15.6
9. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 2:15.8
10. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:16.0
14. Al Qassimi / Patterson (Citroën C3 WRC) 2:22.9