Urmo Aava leads after first three stages - review

Urmo Aava leads after first three stages - review

30.01.2009: As the rain continued to fall, Urmo Aava punched in another second fastest time in his Ford Focus RS WRC to round off the morning loop of stages in the lead of Rally Ireland.But as he began the long drive back to Sligo for a 30-minute service, the Estonia

 

SS3: Urmo Aava leads after the morning loop of stages

As the rain continued to fall, Urmo Aava punched in another second fastest time in his Ford Focus RS WRC to round off the morning loop of stages in the lead of Rally Ireland.

But as he began the long drive back to Sligo for a 30-minute service, the Estonian’s lead had been reduced from 22sec to 6.7sec by the man in second place - Sebastien Loeb - who took his second stage win of the day on SS3.

Aava, however, was delighted to be leading on his first rally with the Ford Focus RS WRC. “It’s really fantastic - I almost can’t say anything - it’s a dream come true,” he said. “We made a good choice with the winter tyre, and it looks like Mikko and Sebastien made some small mistakes, so we have an advantage. Now we have to keep on driving. I don’t know how Loeb is going so fast on the slick tyre - he must be crazy.”

After an anxious start, Loeb’s pace improved dramatically on the second and third stages. “The conditions were a bit better,” he explained. “It was extremely difficult in the first one - there was so much aquaplaning, and in the night we didn’t see the water. In those conditions it took me a long time to try and find a rhythm. On the second one the grip was much better and I was able to use my tyres. This one was okay, too.”

Mikko Hirvonen set the third fastest time, but felt he hadn’t driven well through the 25km stage. The Finn was shocked to see that Loeb had completed the stage 18sec quicker. “He found some incredible speed but I didn’t get the feeling,” he said. “We’ll see what we can do. We are here now, but we have to try and play it better from here.”

Dani Sordo set the fourth fastest time in his C4 WRC, despite a mysterious stall near the midpoint. “I don’t know why it stopped, but the car seems okay,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a problem, we’ll speak with the mechanics in service.”

Henning Solberg was fifth fastest on the stage and holds fifth overall. The Stobart Ford driver had adopted a cautious approach with his winter tyre shod Ford Focus. “I cannot say how bad the conditions are - this is BAD” he said, “I’m just going to take it carefully this weekend. I haven’t got too much experience on roads like this so I’m going to use my head.”

Chris Atkinson suffered with poor visibility following a regrettable servicing error. “I didn’t secure the bonnet pins after we took off the lamp-pod, it flipped up and smashed the windscreen,” he explained. “It was like driving in fog. We lost a lot of time but now we have to forget about that. The guy will fix the screen in service, and then we’ll get out and get some better times.”

Niall McShea’s promising run in the Super 2000 Proton Satira came to an end when his car stopped on the stage, forcing his retirement from the day.


SS2: Aava moves into the lead


Estonian Urmo Aava took the lead of Rally Ireland on Friday’s second stage after the early leader Jari-Matti Latvala retired from the day.

On his first event with the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team, Aava holds a rally lead of 22sec. It is the first time Urmo has led a WRC rally.

The leader after the previous stage, Jari-Matti Latvala, dropped almost 90 seconds when he collected two punctures and damage to his car’s steering and a drive shaft. He completed the stage, but retired from the day’s competition on the road section to SS3.

Sebastien Loeb set the fastest time and moved up the leaderboard from seventh to second overall. Mikko Hirvonen holds third place, 5.5sec behind the Frenchman.

Meanwhile, in a late development to the SS1 times, Niall McShea posted a remarkable third fastest time in the Super 2000 specification Proton Satira Neo.



SS1: Latvala shines in the gloom

Jari-Matti Latvala streaked into an early lead of Rally Ireland after a remarkable drive in treacherous conditions on the event’s opening stage.

In torrential rain, the BP Ford Abu Dhabi Team driver opened up a rally lead of 17.6sec over the 22km stage, and proved that Pirelli’s extreme weather winter tyre was the one to go for.

The vast majority of competitors chose Pirelli’s other tyre option - the soft compound P Zero - but in the monsoon-like conditions, grip was a problem. Of the leading WRC crews only Rautenbach, Latvala, Solberg, Aava and Wilson had chosen the winter option.

“Yes, it was a good start but it was very difficult!” said Latvala. “I think I made the correct tyre choice but there are drivers coming behind quite fast, so let’s see, it’s a long rally.”

Second quickest - and also on the winter tyre - was new Stobart Ford team driver Urmo Aava. “Yeah!” shouted the Estonian when he was given his time. “It was nice. First it was scary - I didn’t expect so much rain. I almost couldn’t keep the car going in a straight line. But I’m very happy!”

Ford driver Mikko Hirvonen was third quickest and the best placed driver on the regular asphalt tyre. “It’s very, very, slippery - absolutely terrible conditions,” he said. “We had a problem too - early on we went hit a bump and the lamp-pod turned round and pointed at me - it took me a while to realise I could turn them off and stop the lights blinding me!”

Dani Sordo was fourth fastest and the highest placed Citroen driver. “All the time in there it was impossible to drive. It was incredible. We were just aqua-planning. It was impossible to go full throttle,” he said.

Sordo’s team-mate and defending drivers’ champion Sebastien Loeb completed the stage 42 seconds slower than Latvala and in a high state of agitation “The tyre regulations make it almost impossible to drive in these conditions,” said Loeb. “I was aquaplaning from the start to the end. I don’t think I was flat on the throttle once - I just kept it in fourth or fifth gear. I didn’t want to take any risks. It’s too slippery to drive in these conditions.”

Chris Atkinson set the ninth fastest tine on his first stage in the Citroen C4 WRC. “That was one of the trickiest stages I’ve ever done - aquaplaning everywhere,” he said. “My tyre wasn’t the ideal choice. You just can’t push - there’s so much water on the road and you can’t get rid of it.”


full results and information on www.wrc.com

 

-wrc-  photos Worldrallypics and Willy Weyens

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30.01.2009 / MaP

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