Citroen's Sébastien Loeb takes rally lead on Fridays final stage

Citroen's Sébastien Loeb takes rally lead on Fridays final stage

13.02.2009: Mikko Hirvonen lost the lead of Rally Norway on Friday’s final stage, slipping 2.6sec behind Sebastien Loeb into second place. The move sparked speculation that Hirvonen had surrendered the place deliberately in order to give himself a better road positio

Mikko Hirvonen lost the lead of Rally Norway on Friday’s final stage, slipping 2.6sec behind Sebastien Loeb into second place.

The move sparked speculation that Hirvonen had surrendered the place deliberately in order to give himself a better road position on Saturday.

As things stand, Hirvonen will be the second driver through Saturday’s stages and may benefit from a racing line swept of loose snow by Loeb.

Hirvonen, however, insisted the switch was unintentional. “My rear tyres are completely finished - I tried really hard,” he said. “We had a lot more tyre wear than the Citroens. I’m missing lots of studs. This is definitely not what I wanted to do. Now we have a lot to make up. It’s going to be a big fight tomorrow.”

Loeb was unaware he was the new rally leader when he finished the stage, but thought road cleaning wouldn’t be a big factor on Saturday. “Its really good fun to drive like this,” said the Citroen Total team leader. “I pushed really hard, took some risks sometimes, but we’re here okay and in a good position for tomorrow. If I had a choice I would prefer to be second on the road but I really don’t think it will make a big difference.”

Jari-Matti Latvala completed the day third in his BP Ford Abu Dhabi Team Focus RS WRC. The Finn will start Saturday’s competition 23.6sec adrift of Hirvonen and with a podium finish in his sights. “Of course I want to apply some pressure,” he said. “This morning was bad but we’ve improved a lot this afternoon. Let’s see how we go.”

Loeb’s team-mate Dani Sordo holds fourth and is hoping for a better day on Saturday. “I lost lots of time in the slow parts and I need to study the data to understand why,” he said. “I don’t have a lot of studs left in my tyres - which didn’t help on the last stage - but I might need to alter my style of driving. Third place here is going to be difficult to achieve so my priority is to protect fourth - that wouldn’t be a bad result.”

Petter Solberg finished the day fifth, 22.9sec behind Sordo, and ruing a weight-saving tyre strategy: “We had a good morning and things were fine on the first stage this afternoon but I was the only car to take just one spare and that turned out to be a very stupid decision!” he said. “We lost a lot of studs. It’s unfortunate but that’s how it is - we will keep pushing.”

After taking the first stage win of his career on SS6, and the second on SS7, P-G Andersson ended the day sixth, just one-tenth of a second behind Petter Solberg. “I’m going to take another two stage wins tomorrow!” said the Swede. “The second time through the stages today has been fantastic. We had plenty of grip. I think the position we have now is probably the best we can hope for, but we’ll see.”

Henning Solberg holds seventh place, 7.8sec behind Andersson, but determined to make rapid progress through the standings on Saturday. “With the gearbox problems we’ve had today it’s been difficult, but it will be okay,” he said. “I’ll drive on the limit tomorrow. I will be top three!”

Briton Matthew Wilson rounded off the points winning places in his Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Focus. Wilson said: “It’s been okay - we tried to keep it as neat and tidy as we could. This has been a day not to make any mistakes. I think tomorrow might be even better.”



- full results on www.wrc.om  photos Willy Weyens, Ford and Stobart
photos on automobilsport.com under PHotos - Slideshows- photos-ecards will be under Photos - WRC Rallyes

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13.02.2009 / MaP

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