Neuville led Hyundai 1-2 in the curtain raiser

The Belgian made a dedicated run on the 3.48km tough and technical tarmac/gravel super special held in the city of Jyvaskyla.

Despite not being entirely comfortable in his i20 N, Neuville finished the stage 1.2s faster than teammate Tanak.

“I always like super special stages and I had fun there, but tomorrow is a completely different world. Right now I’m not comfortable,” Neuville said.

“We made some changes to the set-up in the shakedown and I’m crossing my fingers that tomorrow I’ll have a better feeling.”

Tanak also battled his i20 N on stage, describing his car as “taking on a life of its own”, but the two-time Rally Finland winner did enough to beat the Toyota quartet.

Takamoto Katsuta led the Toyota charge with the third fastest time despite his GR Yaris running without hybrid boost.

Takamoto Katsuta, Aaron Johnston, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT OF Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

The Japanese driver was 2.6s adrift of Neuville and 0.1s faster than home hero Kalle Rovanpera, who was met with huge cheers from the bumper home crowd that thronged the stage.

M-Sport’s WRC debutant Jari Huttunen was the first Rally1 entry to take to the stage, with the Finn posting an impressive rally benchmark in his Ford Puma good enough for fifth, 3.2s who was ashamed of Neuville.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Huttunen, who is managed by two-time world champion Marcus Gronholm.

“I am happy that I didn’t hit anyone, so for me I think it’s going quite well! The power feels good when you open the throttle.”

Last year’s Rally Finland winner Elfyn Evans completed the test in sixth ahead of team-mate Esapekka Lappi, Pierre-Louis Loubet (M-Sport) and Oliver Solberg (Hyundai), who all post at the same time.

M-Sport’s Adrien Fourmaux rounded out the top 10, finishing ahead of team-mates Craig Breen, who hit a bale on the stage, and Gus Greensmith.

The rally continues on Friday, with WRC crews set to tackle nine stages of competition throughout the day.

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