Breen leads as night falls in Finland while Ogier struggles

Jyväskylä (Finland) (AFP) –


Craig Breen led Rally Finland on Friday at the end of the first day's racing with Sebastien Ogier, who could clinch an eighth world title this weekend, down in seventh.

After winning two earlier stages, Breen was second to Elfyn Evans in the final stage of the day, raced as night fell.

"I always questioned what Finland would be like in the dark and now we've felt it and witnessed it," said the Irishman.

"It's absolutely incredible. My lights weren't 100 per cent to be honest, I have a bit of work to do on them, but it's just incredible."

Breen led Hyundai team-mate Ott Tanak by 2.8sec.

"The dark was dark, so nothing strange there!" said Tanak.

Toyota drivers were tightly grouped in the next three places

Welshman Evans was at 6.1sec, Esapekka Lappi at 6.7sec and a second Finn, Kalle Rovanpera at 7.9sec.

Belgian Thierry Neuville, in a Hyundai, was fifth but 31.3sec back with Ogier another 2.3sec behind.

After Takamoto Katsuta of Toyota won the opening stage, Breen won the second and fifth and Tanak, who had opened the day by driving fastest in the shakedown, took the third and fourth, before Evans grabbed the final stage in the gloom.

"It's difficult to be relaxed in the dark like this and in the last part of the stage it's very difficult to see what's on the side of the road," said Evans.

Ogier started the rally 44 points ahead of Evans and 50 ahead of Neuville with Rovanpera another point back.

A driver can take a maximum of 30 points in a race and there are two rallies left after Finland.

"It hasn't been a very strong day for us," said Ogier, whose fifth place on the final stage was his best finish. "We did what we could but I didn't have any pace."

Neuville lost more than 15sec as he finished eighth on the final stage.

"I just couldn't commit to it and the visibility was quite poor. My lights weren't nice and I didn't want to do a mistake because it would have been stupid," he said,

Nine special stages - 151.95 kilometres in total - are on the programme for Saturday, the penultimate day of competition in Finland.