Loeb leads after Thursday's Super Special Stage

Loeb leads after Thursday's Super Special Stage

30.07.2009: Defending World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb holds the lead of Rally Finland tonight after setting the fastest time through the opening head-to-head Super Special Stage.

Defending World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb holds the lead of Rally Finland tonight after setting the fastest time through the opening head-to-head Super Special Stage.



Thousands of spectators flocked to the Killeri trotting track in Jyvaskyla to watch the action, which took place under clear skies and in bright early evening sunshine. The stage began at 1900hrs, but with the 90-strong field running in reverse order it was 2100hrs before the leading WRC crews were in action.

Loeb and his title rival Mikko Hirvonen were the last pair to tackle the circuit, with Loeb taking the win by 0.9sec. "It's good, but for the rally is not finished yet," Loeb said at the finish control. "This is only a stage for fun - the real game will start tomorrow. But for the moment everything is okay."

Loeb's team-mate Dani Sordo holds overnight second place, just 0.1sec adrift. "I liked it a lot," said the Spaniard. "We started well. We'll see tomorrow how we get on on the proper stages."

A clean run from Ford's World Championship leader Mikko Hirvonen meant he slotted into third place overall. "It was great to see and hear the support from the Finnish fans. A driver can't help but be encouraged by that type of backing," he said. "It's frustrating to lose time, even though it was less than a second, but I have to remember that losing 0.9sec is really nothing to worry about. Tomorrow it will be maximum attack!"

You can read Mikko's first EXCLUSIVE blog update for wrc.com now in the WRC Extra section.

Citroen Junior team driver Evgeny Novikov brought his C4 home in the fourth fastest time, while his team-mate Sebastien Ogier rounded off the top five.

On his first competitive stage since his retirement on the Super Special on Rally Poland, Jari-Matti Latvala set the seventh fastest time and was a relieved man at the finish control. "I'm quite happy - you can imagine I had quite a lot of pressure after what happened in Poland, but no big mistakes, so I'm satisfied," he said.

Citroen Xsara driver Petter Solberg finished just ahead of his brother Henning in their match, but said he could have been quicker without a transmission problem. "The clutch was slipping from the start so I lost a lot on the line," he explained. "That was too bad - but it won't happen any more."

Earlier in the evening the crowd had risen to its feet as Formula 1 star Kimi Raikkonen brought his Abarth Grande Punto S2000 to the start control of his first ever WRC stage.

With the noise of his car almost drowned out by the roar of the spectators Kimi made a perfect debut run - beating his opponent, Swede Sveinung Bieltvedt, and setting the 20th fastest time. His time was just 0.1sec slower than that of his more experienced team-mate, Anton Alen (son of Markku) in an identical car.


- Full results, videos and more on www.wrc.com

Photos copyright Willy Weyens

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30.07.2009 / MaP

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