Saturday wrap: Hirvonen on course in Portugal
Citroen holds comfortable lead starting the final day in the Algarve
Mikko Hirvonen is six stages and 115.08 competitive kilometres away from his first victory in the FIA World Rally Championship for the factory Citroen team after he completed the penultimate day of the event leading by more than one minute.
Hirvonen began day three of Vodafone Rally de Portugal with an advantage of almost 40 seconds in the Citroen DS3 WRC he shares with co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen. With the fog, mud and rain that lashed the Algarve stages on Friday subsiding today, Hirvonen’s main focus was on avoiding making any mistakes as he consolidated his healthy margin.
“It’s been good today,” said the Finn. “We managed to take some time out of the others. The lead is a little bigger after a very steady and safe drive. We need to make sure we’re still there at the end of the rally because there is still a long way to go. I’ve been listening to every sound and every knock the car has made.”
Mads Ostberg is second in his Adapta Fiesta after moving ahead of Evgeny Novikov on stage 11. However, his efforts to make more progress and catch Hirvonen were hampered when his car developed an engine problem on stage 13 and he lost precious power and time.
“We hoped to take some time off Mikko but we haven’t been able to do that,” said Norwegian Ostberg. “We will concentrate on second position and just try to continue with a steady run.”
Novikov is third overnight after another strong performance in his M-Sport Fiesta. The 21-year-old was slowed by an engine misfire this morning but holds a comfortable advantage over fourth-placed Nasser Al-Attiyah, who has impressed in his Qatar World Rally Team Citroen.
Petter Solberg had fought his way up to fourth courtesy of four stage wins after restarting this morning in 13th position following his exit on Friday but dropped down to fifth when his factory Fiesta suffered powersteering failure on today’s final stage.
Martin Prokop is sixth having being delayed by an intermittent electrical glitch for much of the day. The Czech also lost ground when the soft compound tyres he used for the dry afternoon stages became badly worn.
Dennis Kuipers is seventh overnight with Sebastien Ogier impressing in his underpowered Super 2000 Skoda Fabia in eighth overall. Peter van Merksteijn Jr is ninth with Jari Ketomaa 10th, despite suffering brake problems during the afternoon.
Thierry Neuville has battled up to 11th following his restart this morning, spending the day running first on the road in his Citroen Junior World Rally Team entry. Dani Sordo is 12th despite an exhaust problem filling his MINI John Cooper Works WRC with toxic fumes. The loss of a side window then ensured a steady build up of dust in the Prodrive-run car.
Ott Tanak is 13th with Daniel Oliveira driving without fault to complete day three in 14th position in his Brazil World Rally Team Fiesta.
Following his retirement on Friday, factory Ford ace Jari-Matti Latvala endured more frustration when a fuel pressure problem developed in the afternoon.
Armindo Araujo crashed his WRC Team MINI Portugal entry, while Patrik Sandell broke his similar car against a tree while on course for a career-best fourth overall for the Sweden World Rally Team. Both drivers are set to restart on Sunday morning.
Sunday’s action begins with the 21.42-kilometre Silves test, which goes live at 07:59hrs local time.
|4.||N. AL ATTIYAH||+6:10.1|
|9.||P. VAN MERKSTEIJN (JR)||+8:38.7|
|15.||Y. AL RAJHI||+16:51.8|
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