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Northern Ireland’s Kris Meeke won Neste Rally Finland on Sunday afternoon with a record-breaking drive that set a new mark for the fastest FIA World Rally Championship round in history.

Kris Meeke is showered in champagne after winning Rally Finland for the first time.His 29.1sec victory over Jari-Matti Latvala shattered the Finn’s hopes of a third consecutive success on home ground and established a new speed record. Meeke’s 126.60kph average smashed Latvala’s performance on the same rally 12 months ago by 1.2kph.

Thirty-seven-year-old Meeke became the first British driver to win the Finnish classic and only the sixth non-Nordic victor in its 65-year history. He led for almost every kilometre of the four-day gravel encounter in a Citroën DS 3.

To seal a remarkable day for the Abu Dhabi Total team, which is tackling a part-time WRC programme this season, Ireland’s Craig Breen scored a maiden podium in third. He finished 1min 41.3sec behind Meeke, having claimed his first stage win this morning.

After establishing a solid lead on Friday, Meeke stamped his authority on this eighth round of the season with a stunning display in the legendary Ouninpohja stage on Saturday morning. He distanced Latvala by more than 13sec in the rollercoaster 33km test and could afford to measure his pace to the Jyväskylä finish.

“It’s a little bit crazy!” said Meeke. “Finland is the home of rallying and Ouninpohja is the Holy Grail of stages and to win both the rally and that stage in the way we did is incredible. I enjoyed it like a little kid, just playing and having fun. It has been exceptional.”

Latvala was demoralised by Meeke’s Ouninpohja performance and settled for second to climb to third in the championship. His only error came on the first day when he punctured a tyre after swiping a bank with his Volkswagen Polo R.

Breen, a former WRC junior champion, netted a podium in only his fourth event in a headline World Rally Car. The 26-year-old could not hold back the tears as he crossed the finish of the final stage. “It’s the best day of my life,” he said.

Thierry Neuville held off Hyundai i20 team-mate Hayden Paddon to take fourth by 2.3sec, both drivers unhappy with their car’s handling throughout the rally. Mads Østberg completed the top six in a Ford Fiesta RS.

Andreas Mikkelsen finished seventh in a Polo R, the Norwegian haemorraghing time yesterday as he opened the roads in slippery conditions and conceding more seconds after going off the road. WRC 2 winner Esapekka Lappi was eighth with Kevin Abbring and Teemu Suninen completing the top 10.

Ott Tänak’s hopes of grabbing third from Breen ended when he crashed into a ditch on Sunday morning. Sébastien Ogier retained the championship lead despite failing to score after sliding into a ditch.

The championship switches to asphalt next month when ADAC Rallye Deutschland is based in Trier on 18 - 21 August.

Overall Final Classification
K. Meeke / P. Nagle (Citroën DS3 WRC) 2:38:05.8
J. M. Latvala / M. Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +29.1
C. Breen / S. Martin (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1:41.3
T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul (Hyundai New Generation i20 WRC) +1:45.9
H. Paddon / J. Kennard (Hyundai New Generation i20 WRC) +1:48.2
M. Østberg / O. Floene (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +2:04.6
A. Mikkelsen / A. Jaeger (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +2:22.4
E. Lappi / J. Ferm (Škoda Fabia R5) +4:53.8
K. Abbring / S. Marshall (Hyundai New Generation i20 WRC) +5:22.4
T. Suninen / M. Markkula (Škoda Fabia R5) +5:35.5
2016 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings
S. Ogier 143 points / A. Mikkelsen 98 / J. M. Latvala 87 / H. Paddon 84 / T. Neuville 76 / M. Østberg 70 / D. Sordo 68 / O. Tanak 52  / K. Meeke 51 / C. Breen 25 / E. Camilli  23 / H. Solberg 14 / S. Lefebvre 12 / M. Prokop 12 / T. Suninen 8 / M. Ligato 6 / E. Evans 6 / E. Lappi 6 / L. Bertelli 4 / K. Abbring 4 / P. Tidemand / N. Fuchs 2 / A. Kremer 1 / V. Gorban 1 / J. Kopecky 1
2016 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
Volkswagen Motorsport  227 points / Hyundai Motorsport 168 / M-Sport World Rally Team 112  / Volkswagen Motorsport II 109 / Hyundai Motorsport N 86 / DMACK World Rally Team 58 / Jipocar Czech National Team 18 / Yazeed Racing 6
All results remain subject to official FIA confirmation.

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