Hirvonen fastest at Finland shakedown
"The car feels great and I feel ready"
Finn Mikko Hirvonen got his quest for a second victory on his home rally off to a perfect start earlier today by setting the fastest time at the pre-event shakedown for Neste Oil Rally Finland.
The four hour test - a prelude to this weekend’s rally - took place on a 4.46km gravel road in Muurame, 10km from the Jyvasykla Servce Park. The stage is a new choice for Shakedown and replaces Laajavuori, which will be used as part of this year’s competitive route. Conditions were dry, sunny and humid throughout the test, with the temperature peaking at a sweltering 34 degrees Celsius.
"The car feels great" said Mikko after completing his third run in a session-winning time of 2m 02.2s. "At our pre-event test we tried so many things, but I didn’t have enough time to get confident with the set-up we’re going to use. Now I feel ready.”
“The shakedown road is definitely better than the one we’ve used for the last four years. It’s really nice, fast and there are big jumps - so a really good stage. Can I win again? Well, let’s just say I think we have a chance to fight for it,” added the Ford Focus RS WRC driver.
Citroen C4 WRC driver Sebastien Loeb and Hirvonen’s team-mate Jari-Matt Latvala were joint closest to the wining time, both stopping the clock just one-tenth shy.
Sebastien Ogier and Dani Sordo were fourth and fifth fastest respectively.
After his podium finish on the most recent rally in Bulgaria, Petter Solberg ended the session with the sixth-fastest time - eight-tenths off Hirvonen’s - and brimming with confidence. “I didn’t change anything and we were fastest on the early runs, I’m really happy, no problems at all,” he said. “We did a proper test, we did absolutely the right things and I feel I’m back fighting with the best in the world. I feel this more since Bulgaria. We will be on the top on every rally from here!”
Nest Oil Rally Finland gets underway tonight at 1800hrs when crews leave the Service Park bound for the opening Laajavuori stage.
Shakedown times of the leading WRC drivers:
1. HIRVONEN. Ford Focus RS WRC 09. 2:02.2
=2. LATVALA. Ford Focus RS WRC 09. 2:02.3
=2. LOEB. Citroen C4 WRC. 2:02.3
4. OGIER. Citroen C4 WRC. 2:02.4
5. SORDO. Citroen C4 WRC. 2:02.6
6. P. SOLBERG. Citroen C4 WRC. 2:03.0
7. WILSON. Ford Focus RS WRC 08. 2:04.0
8. H. SOLBERG. Ford Focus RS WRC 08. 2:04.6
=9. OSTBERG. Subaru Impreza WRC06. 2:05.2
=9. RAIKKONEN. Citroen C4 WRC. 2:05.2
10. Al QASSIMI. Ford Focus RS WRC 08. 2:06.6
11. KANKKUNEN. Ford Focus RS WRC 08. 2:08.4
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