Hirvonen edges Loeb on rocky repeat

Hirvonen edges Loeb on rocky repeat

31.07.2009: Rally leaders Mikko Hirvonen and Sebastien Loeb continued to set the pace on SS6, the first of Rally Finland's repeated stages, despite an increased risk of punctures from rocks that now littered the road.

Rally leaders Mikko Hirvonen and Sebastien Loeb continued to set the pace on SS6, the first of Rally Finland's repeated stages, despite an increased risk of punctures from rocks that now littered the road.



The earlier passage of 90 cars had made the surface of the 22.29km Jukojarvi rutted in places and had uncovered a number of sharp rocks on the racing line. But despite the risky conditions, the rally leaders were all faster than they had been earlier on - when the stage was run as SS2. The stage winner on both occasions was Hirvonen - who was 11 seconds quicker on the repeat.

"It was a good start to the afternoon but it didn't come easy," said Mikko. "There were lots of rocks in the stage, and many times we hit them and I thought we had a puncture but luckily there was no problem."

Loeb was next to complete the stage, in a time 1.6sec slower than Hirvonen's, but with a similar story: "I tried very hard - I couldn’t do better," he said. "I was flat out all the time. I hit a rock in the line with one of my front wheels and I said 'okay, this should be a puncture,' but it didn't happen."

Dani Sordo was third fastest in his Citroen C4. "It's not bad, it's a very nice stage, it's very fast but the amount of stones is dangerous for the cars." Following Sordo through the stage, Jari-Matti Latvala completed it 2.1sec slower. "It was better than in the morning but I'm still losing a little too much time to Sordo," said Latvala. "I must say he's going very quickly - but I'm not too concerned."

Rally Finland star from last year Matti Rantanen is chasing a top-six finish this year, and after moving ahead of Mads Ostberg on SS6 he moved up to fifth. The 28-year old brought his Munchi's team Focus through the stage in the fifth fastest time - the quickest of the non-factory team drivers. "It was a smooth run, with no big mistakes - it was good fun," he said. "I'm getting more used to the car but need to go earlier on the throttle out of corners - then we can go flat out all the place!"

Stobart Ford driver Henning Solberg set the seventh fastest time. After his podium finish on the previous round in Poland the Norwegian was at a loss to explain why he wasn't faster today. "I honesty don't know - I'm pushing so hard and look at the times! I just cannot say why."



-full results, more infos and videos on www.wrc.com     photo Willy Weyens

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31.07.2009 / MaP

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