Sunday wrap: number two is number one in Sardinia
Loeb’s understudy Hirvonen claims first victory for Citroen
Mikko Hirvonen has claimed his 15th victory in the FIA World Rally Championship by winning Rally Italia Sardegna for the first time after finishing runner-up on five previous occasions alongside co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen.
The result, the Finn’s first triumph for the factory Citroen team, secures second place in the WRC drivers’ standings subject to final ratification. Evgeny Novikov equalled his previous best WRC finish of second with M-Sport team-mate Ott Tanak clinching his maiden podium in third after both youngsters excelled throughout the four-day island event.
“It feels really, really good,” said the Citroen number two, who was embroiled in a close fight with team leader Sebastien Loeb until the nine-time champion crashed out on Friday’s opening stage. “This was the goal we had before the rally and finally everything worked well. I’ve been five times second here and to finally win the rally I’m really pleased with that.”
Behind Tanak, Mads Ostberg finished fourth in a similar Ford Fiesta but his efforts to win the event-closing Power Stage were dashed by a puncture after he had set the pace on the first run through the Gallura test this morning. Nevertheless, the Norwegian privateer moves into third place in the drivers’ table heading to the season finale in Spain next month.
Volkswagen Motorsport’s Sebastien Ogier fended off Chris Atkinson in the battle for fifth place, a fine effort by the Frenchman in a Super 2000-specification Skoda Fabia. Atkinson started the Power Stage 5.3s behind Ogier in his MINI John Cooper Works WRC but lost more than a minute through the run and had to settle for sixth.
Andreas Mikkelsen recorded his first Sardinia finish in four attempts in the second Volkswagen-run Fabia with Martin Prokop overcoming myriad problems to take eighth for the Czech Ford National Team. Petter Solberg gained some consolation for his exit on Friday by winning the Power Stage to secure ninth overall.
Karl Kruuda’s retirement at the end of Saturday promoted Luca Pedersoli into 10th place and the final world championship point on the Italian veteran’s first start in the series for more than a decade in a privateer Citroen.
Jari-Matti Latvala’s recovery from his Friday retirement netted 12th spot for the factory Ford team. Thierry Neuville bagged the final Power Stage point in 18th overall for the Qatar World Rally Team with Paulo Nobre finishing 19th in the second WRC Team MINI Portugal entry.
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