Loeb pushing hard but Hirvonen leads into day two
After a long break, the final stage of day one got underway this evening with Mikko Hirvonen taking the overnight lead of Rally Finland. There were no major changes during the 2.06km super special Killeri repeat and so the
Ford Focus driver leads the event by 3.3 seconds from arch rival and championship protagonist Sebastien Loeb
The day saw the battle for the lead see-saw between Hirvonen and Loeb, but the former had done enough in the early stages this morning to ensure he leads the rally into day two, despite Loeb topping the timesheets for the sixth time in 24 hours late on Friday.
Ending the day with a super special was never going to see any major changes as three seconds covered the top 13 runners. Loeb set the pace however with a best time of 1:20.2s, four-tenths clear of Citroen team-mate Dani Sordo who remains a relatively comfortable third overall.
The rally leader was seven-tenths off the ultimate pace and third fastest on the stage, a fraction ahead of the so-far steady Jari Matti Latvala who retains fourth position, ten seconds adrift of Sordo.
Henning Solberg admitted he was at a loss to explain his early form on this rally but the Norwegian had a stronger afternoon in his Stobart Ford to close the gap to Matti Rantanen to 2.6 seconds. Mads Ostberg has been frustrated with minor issues on his Subaru today but ended the day sixth fastest on this stage and seventh overall behind Rantanen and Solberg.
Sebastien Ogier and Matthew Wilson round out the top ten for Citroen Junior and Stobart respectively with 3.5 seconds separating the battling duo. 2007 Formula One world champion Kimi Raikkonen
ends his first day as a WRC driver 17th in his Punto Grande S2000, seven minutes behind the rally leader but on the pace of rivals Anton Allen, Janne Tuohino and Patrik Flodin.
Special stage 11 gets underway at 07.13 local time (05.13 BST) Saturday morning.