BLOG: Rally Finland's Irish Eyes Are Smiling
There's no doubt about it, Colin McRae would have been a very happy Celt this weekend – as his Irish protege Kris Meeke came of age, with the most historic victory on the most historic of rallies, Rally Finland (aka 1000 Lakes if you're old like me!).
Conventionally a WRC round only to be won by the Scandinavians due to its high-speed, specialist airborne nature, ballsy Kris demolished the competition in his Abu Dhabi Citroen Racing DS3, winning easily, with a 30s lead over Finn Jari-Matti Latvala.
And to make things even more unreal for British rally fans, the under-the-radar Craig Breen bagged himself a podium place, in floods of tears and up against very stiff competition from the well known Hyundai races of Thierry Neuville & Hayden Paddon, separated by just a few seconds after 21 high-speed special stages.
It was the stuff of dreams for Meeke & Breen & co-drivers Paul Nagle and Scott Martin, and the Abu Dhabi team – who clearly nailed their Finland set-up – let alone the scores of British rally fans.
Bravo to you all for making history & no doubt Colin raised a dram or two your way last night!
Kris Meeke said: "For a WRC driver, winning Rally Finland is the ultimate goal before becoming World Champion. It’s an incredible feeling to win on the greatest roads in the world. This result was largely determined yesterday with the two runs on Ouninpohja. At the end of the first run, I didn’t know my time but I knew that I had driven really well. But I could hardly believe it when I found out that I gone thirteen seconds faster than Jari-Matti Latvala! Last year, in the other direction, he beat me by six seconds when I thought I had driven the perfect stage. That just goes to show the progress we have made, through a combination of work with the team and my growing experience. I also have to say that the car worked perfectly all weekend. We only did one day of testing, last Sunday, but that was enough for us to see that we already had the best set-up. I felt really confident right from the word go and that was a key factor in the win. This morning, I was totally relaxed. I just had to drive the last few stages to finish off the work that we had done in the first two days."
Craig Breen said: "It’s the best day of my career again. But it seems that with this car, every day is a bit better! When I grabbed third place yesterday afternoon, I already felt that I had moved up another level. There weren’t many kilometres left to complete today but it was still pretty tough because I was put under pressure by my rivals. I couldn’t be happier, claiming my first WRC stage win and finishing on the podium. The finish was very emotional. I couldn’t believe it, but it was fantastic to celebrate this moment with the people who have supported me. It’s also a richly-deserved result for the guys in the team, who had to work hard to repair the car after I went off during testing on Monday. I’ve taken a step closer to where I want to be this weekend."
1. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (DS 3 WRC) 2:38:05.8
2. Latvala / Anttila (VW Polo R WRC) +29.1
3. Breen / Martin (DS 3 WRC) +1:41.3
4. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:45.9
5. Paddon / Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:48.2
6. Østberg / Floene (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +2:04.6
7. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (VW Polo R WRC) +2:22.4
8. Lappi / Ferm (Skoda Fabia R5) +4:53.8
9. Abbring / Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) +5:22.4
10. Suninen / Markkula (Skoda Fabia R5) +5:35.5