Peugeot driver Harri Rovanpera has had a “good start” to the Rally of Finland, leading the field at the first service park break at the end of the fifth stage of the event.

Peugeot driver Harri Rovanpera has had a “good start” to the Rally of Finland, leading the field at the first service park break at the end of the fifth stage of the event.

Rovanpera and his team mates, Marcus Gronholm and Sebastian Lindholm, are among the top five finishers in the stage, with Rovanpera saying he was happy with his pace on the fast Finnish tracks.

“I’m fairly relaxed,” Rovanpera said after the stage. “We are going quite fast, but I haven’t had any moments yet.”

In his home race, the Finn has been joined at Peugeot by compatriot Lindholm, who was fifth-quickest behind Ford’s Markko Martin and Skoda’s Janni Paasonen.

Janne Tuohino in the second Ford, Subaru’s Mikko Hirvonen and Francois Duval, also in a Ford Focus, completed the top eight finishes.

Current driver’s championship leader Sebastien Loeb has had an awful run so far in Finland, and now lies in tenth place overall.

“It takes time to find the pace of this rally,” Loeb admitted. “It might take a while, but I will manage. I don’t know how much I’m slowed by the fact that I’m sweeping the road or by the fact that I have to find the unique rhythm for this event.

“I’m not taking any risks. The roads are narrow and fast, and I want to be there at the finish.”

Reigning world champion Petter Solberg’s hopes of defending his crown were seriously damaged on the fourth stage of the event when he crashed his Subaru two kilometres into the stage. He was forced to retire, with extensive damage to the front-right corner of his car.

Earlier on SS2, four spectators were injured after Mitsubishi driver Ari Laivola left the road. One person was hospitalised while the other injured people received treatment at the scene. The stage was halted, but the remaining stages planned for the day continued as normal.