Ott Tanak started his bid for Secto rally Finland defense with the fastest time through the 3.4km Harju stage on the streets of Jyväskylä on Thursday evening.
The M-Sport Ford driver edged Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville to take a slim lead of 0.6seconds into the Friday’s nine-stage thriller.
Although his chances on the championship are blurred, Tanak is hopeful to fight for the win.
“We will try, we will go all in. Let’s see where it gets us. The ones we are fighting are very strong obviously and we need to put everything on the line,” he said.
Kalle Rovanpera experienced a slight scare on the stage but would only drop 0.7seconds off the lead.
22-year-old was amazed by the massive support from the fans as he went through the streets.
“It’s an amazing feeling. I can almost hear the people from inside of the car, I know how loud it is. It feels so amazing in the car when you know the atmosphere is so great,” he said.
Hyundai’s Esapekka Lappi finished the stage in fourth followed by Toyota Gazoo’s Elfyn Evans.
Takamoto Katsuta, Teemu Suninen and Jari-Matti Latvala were farther down at the end of the day.
Leg two will have crews take the battle on nine stages with 108.23km.