Competing at Rally Finland as part of its partial World Rally Championship programme, the Abu Dhabi Total WRT enjoyed a dream weekend. Just as in Portugal, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle took victory at what was the fastest ever WRC rally, covered at a whopping average speed of 126.6kph! Having constantly improved since joining the team at the start of the year, Craig Breen and Scott Martin racked up their first WRC stage win before going on to finish third overall!
After two long legs, the final day of Rally Finland was more like a sprint finish. The Lempää (6.83km) and Oittila (10.15km) stages were each run twice, with no service break.
Having amassed a healthy 41s lead over Jari-Matti Latvala, Kris Meeke could afford to control his pace, not looking to add to his impressive collection of stage wins. Whilst remaining focused on his own race, the Northern Irishman followed the progress of Craig Breen with great interest.
In the third car entered by the Abu Dhabi Total WRT this weekend, Khalid Al Qassimi did much the same. The Emirati driver admitted he found himself unable to fully concentrate on his driving as he was too excited by the prospect of seeing his team-mates finish on the podium at one of the season’s most iconic rallies.
Craig Breen was tracked by a group of heavyweight challengers: Ott Tänak, Thierry Neuville, Hayden Paddon and Mads Østberg were all within about twenty seconds of the Irishman!
After his stage win on SS21, Tänak had closed to within 4.8s of the Abu Dhabi Total WRT driver. The Estonian’s charge was brought to a halt, however, when he went off the road on the next stage. Slightly unnerved to see his rival stopped by the roadside, Craig eased off, losing a few seconds and allowing Neuville to close to within 6.6s!
Buoyed by advice from the team, which encouraged him to defend his position, the Irishman set off on SS23 determined to go for it. At the end of Lempää 2, he claimed his first ever World Rally Championship stage win, a tenth of a second ahead of Paddon!
Rally Finland concluded with the Power Stage. Obviously, Kris Meeke made no attempt to fight for the bonus points, preferring to make sure of his third WRC win, adding to the victories he secured in Argentina last year and in Portugal a few months ago. This result, the first time a British driver has won in Finland, was underlined by another record: that of the fastest rally ever. In covering the 333.6km of timed stages in 2:38:05.8, Kris and Paul set a new record average speed of 126.6kph!
Sixth in the Power Stage, Craig Breen and Scott Martin retained enough of a lead to complete their dream weekend and claim their first ever WRC podium in only their fifth appearance in a World Rally Car! Meanwhile, Khalid Al Qassimi and Chris Patterson finished in 16th position in the overall standings.
Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team will make its next appearance in the WRC at Rally China (9-11 September) with one car entered for Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle.