WRC Mikko Hirvonen and Ford on top in Rally Poland
ORLEN Platinum 66th Rally Poland
FIA World Rally Championship, round 8
For immediate release
Friday, June 26th, 2009
FORD AND MIKKO HIRVONEN LEAD AFTER THRILLING
FIRST DAY OF ORLEN PLATINUM 66TH RALLY POLAND
- Loeb crashes out at start of fourth Paprotki stage
- Latvala holds second place; Sordo in third
- Kevin Abbring seals day one lead in JWRC category
MIKOLAJKI (Poland): Finland’s Mikko Hirvonen led the ORLEN Platinum 66th Rally Poland after the opening leg’s seven special stages and moved back into contention for a maiden FIA World Rally Championship Drivers’ title.
The Finn had passed Sébastien Loeb on the third stage and moved further in front of Ford team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala over the subsequent high-speed, loose-surface tests in the forests and fields north-east of Mikolajki.
After trailing Loeb for much of the season, the performance marked a stunning reversal of fortunes for Hirvonen and his BP Ford Abu Dhabi Word Rally Team. He will now start Saturday’s six special stages with an 8.9-second advantage over Latvala and the prospect of actually leading the FIA Drivers’ Championship on Sunday.
“Mikko was setting unbelievable times today,” admitted Latvala. “It has been a very good day for our team.”
Dani Sordo held third after stage four and needed to stay out of trouble to boost Citroën’s flagging Manufacturers’ title hopes. But the Spaniard posted an excellent time through the fifth stage and was on a par with the leading Ford duo. He retained third place at the overnight halt.
A fastest time for Latvala in SS5 had reduced Hirvonen’s overall lead to just 1.4 seconds. But Mikko hit back in the sixth special with a sensational fastest time and extended his overall lead to 9.8 seconds.
Sordo and Latvala were evenly matched, but the Finn headed into the final stage of the day with a 14.6-second hold on second position. Latvala managed to claw a fraction back on his team-mate in SS7, but the Finns were in command heading back to the crowds and the final service in Mikolajki.
Andreas Mikkelsen had climbed to fourth overall at the end of the first loop of three stages on Friday morning, but he complained of differential-related problems and engine maladies ultimately forced him out mid-day through the final stage of the day. His demise promoted Petter Solberg to fourth overall and the Norwegian’s brother Henning to fifth.
Three-time event winner Krzysztof Holowczyc was flying the Polish flag proudly in ninth position in his Stobart Ford Focus RS, despite a spin and a stall that cost him valuable time.
Championship leader Sébastien Loeb hopes to restart on Saturday, although he is sceptical that he can make up much of the 20 minutes he will incur in time penalties.
“I hit a tree stump just on the side of the road,” admitted the Frenchman. “I didn’t see it on the recce because it was covered in sand. We hit it with the right-hand front wheel and that was broken. I don’t think many drivers had it marked in their notes.”
There was a fascinating scrap for supremacy in the JWRC category between Kevin Abbring, Michael Kosciuszko and Martin Prokop. Abbring was quickest out of the blocks in his Renault Clio and held a tiny advantage over Kosciuszko at the service point after four stages.
The Dutchman extended that lead to 8.6 seconds through the re-run of Grabówka and the battle between Kosciuszko and Prokop intensified. By the end of the leg, Abbring’s lead had grown to 27 seconds and Kosciuszko headed Prokop by just over seven seconds.
ORLEN Platinum 66th Rally Poland –positions after SS7:
1. Mikko Hirvonen (FIN)/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN) Ford Focus RS 1h 02m 23.1s
2. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN)/Miikka Anttila (FIN) Ford Focus RS 1h 02m 32.0s
3. Dani Sordo (E)/Marc Marti (E) Citroën C4 1h 03m 00.1s
4. Petter Solberg (N)/Philip Mills (GB) Citroën Xsara 1h 03m 37.7s
5. Henning Solberg (N)/Cato Menkerud (N) Ford Focus RS 1h 03m 44.4s
6. Sébastien Ogier (F)/Julien Ingrassia (F) Citroën C4 1h 03m 56.0s
7. Matthew Wilson (GB)/Scott Martin (GB) Ford Focus RS 1h 04m 19.6s
8. Conrad Rautenbach (ZW)/Dale Moscatt (AUS) Citroën C4 1h 04m 54.6s
9. Krzysztof Holowczyc (PL)/Lukasz Kurzeja (PL) Ford Focus RS 1h 05m 02.9s
10. Mads Ostberg (N)/Jonas Andersson (S) Subaru Impreza WRC 1h 06m 54.7s