Friday midday wrap: Drama in Mexico as Hirvonen leads
Early frustration for Ford drivers Latvala and Solberg
Round three of the FIA World Rally Championship powered by Nokia has got off to a dramatic start in Mexico today with Citroen team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Sebastien Loeb separated by six-tenths of a second in the overall classification.
But while the Citroen team can reflect on a strong start to Rally Guanajuato Mexico, rival squad Ford will be hoping for a significant change of fortune this afternoon following a frustrating morning when its factory drivers Jari-Matti Latvala and Petter Solberg both hit trouble.
Solberg, the overnight leader, had high hopes of a strong result after getting the pick of the road positions by winning the Qualifying Stage on Thursday. Instead he suffered two punctures, while a broken front suspension arm, caused by striking an errant rock, cost Latvala top spot on stage five and dropped him to eighth overall, one place behind Solberg.
But there have been no such problems for Hirvonen who impressed on his first outing on gravel in his factory Citroen by winning the opening stage of the day.
“The stages are extremely difficult but it’s been okay for us with no problems,” said Hirvonen. “I’m not planning major changes because I’m very happy with the car.”
Mads Ostberg is a strong third overall in his Adapta Fiesta despite reporting a loss of time in the uphill sections. The impressive Thierry Neuville, competing in Mexico for the first time, is 5.2s behind in his Citroen. Neuville had been ahead of Ostberg but slipped back on stage five after admitting to wearing out his tyres. A rock hitting the windscreen of his car also proved a major distraction.
Ott Tanak is fifth overall after five stages and hopes that tweaks to his brakes in service will provide a better feeling this afternoon. M-Sport team-mate Evgeny Novikov is sixth with Monster World Rally Team’s Chris Atkinson in ninth after a puncture on stage five held him back.
Team-mate Ken Block broke a driveshaft going off the road and into a ditch on stage five. Anxious not to delay the pursuing Atkinson, the American decided to pull over unaware that Atkinson had also hit trouble. As a result Block is down in 18th place.
Armindo Araujo completes the top 10 for WRC Team MINI Portugal despite an electronic mapping problem. Paulo Nobre, in a second MINI John Cooper Works WRC, rolled into retirement on stage five.
Nasser Al-Attiyah is 11th for the Qatar World Rally Team with Kevin Abbring heading Volkswagen Motorsport team-mate Sebastien Loeb in a fine 12th overall.
Local hero Benito Guerra heads the Production Car World Rally Championship division with title leader Michal Kosciuszko just behind in his identical Mitsubishi Lancer.
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