WRC Mikko Hirvonen maintains lead after day two in Poland
ORLEN Platinum 66th Rally Poland
FIA World Rally Championship, round 8
For immediate release
Saturday, June 27th, 2009
FORD AND HIRVONEN MAINTAIN LEAD AFTER DAY
TWO OF ORLEN PLATINUM 66TH RALLY POLAND
- Latvala maintains second place; Sordo on a charge in third
- Abbring retakes JWRC lead from Kościuszko on 13th stage
MIKOLAJKI (Poland): Finland’s Mikko Hirvonen extended his overall lead in the ORLEN Platinum 66th Rally Poland to 12 seconds, after 13 timed special stages at the end of day two, on Saturday afternoon.
The Finn, driving a Ford Focus RS, remains on course to steal a shock FIA Drivers’ Championship advantage from Sébastien Loeb – a feat that looked almost impossible a few weeks ago.
“I am going flat out all the time,” admitted Hirvonen. “The stages are very fast. It has been a pretty good day. I thought it would be a little bit easier, but it has been fantastic anyway.”
Finnish team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala maintained second place and Spain’s Dani Sordo played the supporting role for Loeb’s Citroën team superbly by pressurising the leading Fords with third overall. “I was driving on the limit today, absolutely flat out at times,” admitted Latvala. “It was insane. Dani was giving it a real go and making life difficult.”
Sébastien Ogier and Henning and Petter Solberg fought a frantic battle for fourth, fifth and sixth places. Ogier maintained fourth position, but Petter passed his brother into fifth place on the final few kilometres of the 13th stage.
Matthew Wilson was secure in seventh position in his Stobart Ford Focus.
Massive crowds flocked to the Mazurian Lake District to witness the day’s six timed special stages to the north-east of Mikolajki. The final five special stages on Sunday promise to be a thrilling prospect, with Latvala needing to fend off Sordo’s challenge to give Ford two crucial extra points towards the FIA Manufacturers’ Championship.
Saturday afternoon – SS9/SS11
Hirvonen had to reply with a fast time on the opening stage of the second loop and the Finn responded by beating Latvala by seven seconds. Latvala complained that he lost vital seconds on the rutted surface and was unable to shake off the menacing threat of Sordo in any case, as the leaders headed into the two longer repeat runs through Gawliki and Wydmini with Hirvonen leading by 10 seconds.
Ogier stalled twice and dropped six seconds to Henning Solberg but maintained fourth place, with the Solberg brothers, Henning and Petter, heading seventh-placed Matthew Wilson.
Loeb was on a competitive pace throughout the day, but it remains to be seen whether he could salvage a championship point on the final day. He trails 10th-placed Mads Ostberg by over 12 minutes and will be relying on misfortune to befall several drivers inside the top 10.
Hirvonen was able to edge a little further away from Latvala through SS12, Loeb set the fastest time and the top 10 held station heading into the 13th stage. Hirvonen did enough to maintain his lead through Wydminy – where Loeb was again quickest - although Sordo was still in touching distance of Latvala heading back to Mikolajki.
Krzysztof Holowczyc maintained his progress towards a career-best result in the WRC – he finished seventh in Argentina in 1998, but only the top six drivers scored points that year. The Olsztyn driver was on course to secure his first ever points in the series and the first WRC points in history for a Polish driver.
The fight for supremacy in the JWRC category raged between Kevin Abbring, Michael Kościuszko and Martin Prokop. Abbring had held the lead for nine special stages, but Kościuszko’s knowledge of the longer stages from previous Polish rallies was crucial.
He edged in front at the mid-day interval, but Abbring was faster on each of the afternoon’s three stages - despite never visiting the event before - and regained the lead by the miniscule margin of 0.8 seconds.
Prokop maintained his fading title challenge with third, but Italian Luca Griotti was forced out with a broken drive shaft.
ORLEN Platinum 66th Rally Poland –positions after SS13:
1. Mikko Hirvonen (FIN)/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN) Ford Focus RS 2h 21m 45.8s
2. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN)/Miikka Anttila (FIN) Ford Focus RS 2h 21m 57.8s
3. Dani Sordo (E)/Marc Marti (E) Citroën C4 2h 22m 24.3s
4. Sébastien Ogier (F)/Julien Ingrassia (F) Citroën C4 2h 23m 45.1s
5. Petter Solberg (N)/Philip Mills (GB) Citroën Xsara 2h 23m 52.5s
6. Henning Solberg (N)/Cato Menkerud (N) Ford Focus RS 2h 23m 53.8s
7. Matthew Wilson (GB)/Scott Martin (GB) Ford Focus RS 2h 25m 33.8s
8. Krzysztof Holowczyc (PL)/Lukasz Kurzeja (PL) Ford Focus RS 2h 25m 59.1s
9. Conrad Rautenbach (ZW)/Dale Moscatt (AUS) Citroën C4 2h 27m 11.7s
10. Mads Ostberg (N)/Jonas Andersson (S) Subaru Impreza WRC 2h 28m 21.3s