SS14: Hirvonen closes on Solberg

As Loeb is comfortably in the lead



21 January 2012 - 16:12
SS14: Hirvonen closes on Solberg

Citroen’s Mikko Hirvonen continues to edge closer to Petter Solberg in the battle for third position on Rallye Monte-Carlo after he went 1.7s faster than his Ford rival on Saturday’s first stage, which crossed over the classic Col de Turini.

Hirvonen, whose time through the stage was 15m38.4s, is now 22.1s behind the Norwegian in the overall standings. “I was driving quite safely and still did that time,” the Finn told World Rally Radio. “I’m not sure it will be enough but I’m getting more familiar with the car.”

Norwegian Solberg said: “It was a really, really good stage - this is the most fun stage I’ve had for a long time. It was just proper.”

With an overall advantage of more than two minutes, Sebastien Loeb said the biggest challenge he faces is maintaining his concentration behind the wheel of his Citroen DS3 WRC. He completed the stage, held in dry and mild conditions, in a time of 15m40.3s.

“I didn’t take any risks, I’m just trying to find the right rhythm and to be concentrated,” said Loeb. “But it’s really difficult to find the right rhythm when all you have in your mind is not to make no mistakes. It’s the first time I’ve been through that stage with absolutely no snow or damp places.”

Dani Sordo said he wasn’t entirely happy with the set-up of his MINI John Cooper Works WRC, complaining the car was “slow and heavy” to react. The Spaniard said he also drove “too carefully”.

Evgeny Novikov said he wasn’t happy with his choice of soft compound tyre. M-Sport team-mate Francois Delecour reported a powersteering glitch from the stage start on his Fiesta, while MINI driver Pierre Campana reported an intercom problem in the closing three kilometres of the run.

Czech Ford National Team’s Martin Prokop has moved ahead of Armindo Aruajo after the MINI driver said his tyres were more worn than he would have liked at the stage finish.


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