Hirvonen to run first in Portugal

Citroen driver selects opening road position


By Franck Drui

28 March 2012 - 15:03
Hirvonen to run first in Portugal

Drivers have selected their road positions for the opening day of Vodafone Rally de Portugal with the rival factory Citroen and Ford pilots opting for entirely different starting strategies.

Ford ace Jari-Matti Latvala was the first driver permitted to select his start number after topping this morning’s Qualifying Stage. The Finn opted to run 17th on the road in an effort to benefit from a ‘clean’ road surface through Thursday’s three gravel stages.

Citroen star Mikko Hirvonen, the third driver permitted to pick his starting position, selected first place on the road in order to avoid being caught out by hanging dust clouds, which can be a hazard on dry gravel events, especially at night when there is less breeze to disperse the dust.

“We are counting more on the cleaning effect that it will be cleaner with more grip,” said Latvala. “The organisers have promised there is no dust on the [night] stages so we are also counting on that and the information in our team that we are confident the cleaning effect is bigger than the dust problem.”

Hirvonen said: “Maybe there’s dust, maybe not. Even if there’s dust or rain it’s better to be first car on the road. The road cleaning might be a problem but there are only three short stages and if we lose something with that it shouldn’t be too much and we should be able to fight back from that. I’m optimistic for the rally but it’s going to be interesting where we are compared to the Fords. We spoke about it together as a team and as you can see Sebastien took the second place so that was our goal.”

The top 17 starting positions for day one of round four of the FIA World Rally Championship powered by Nokia are as follows:

1 Mikko Hirvonen (Citroen)
2 Sebastien Loeb (Citroen)
3 Ott Tanak (M-Sport)
4 Dani Sordo (Prodrive)
5 Jari Ketomaa (Autotek)
6 Thierry Neuville (Citroen Junior)
7 Armindo Aruajo (MINI Portugal)
8 Martin Prokop (Czech)
9 Nasser Al-Attiyah (Qatar WRT)
10 Daniel Oliveira (Brazil WRT)
11 Peter van Merksteijn Jr (Van Merksteijn)
12 Dennis Kuipers (M-Sport)
13 Patrik Sandell (Prodrive)
14 Mads Ostberg (Adapta)
15 Evgeny Novikov (M-Sport)
16 Petter Solberg (Ford)
17 Jari-Matti Latvala (Ford)


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