SS14: Hirvonen fastest, Block retires
Story from www.wrc.com
Stage data: SS14, Leustu 1 (21.94 kilometres)
By Ford World Rally Team co-driver Miikka Anttila: “This is like Surkee in that it’s running in the opposite direction and I’m not aware it’s ever been done in this direction before. At the end of the stage there used to be some very famous crests and we do not know if we will jump because the road was all the time going downhill and now we are going uphill I’m not sure how much we will jump over those crests. The stage was always very fast. Now they have done a lot of repairs to the road and made it wider so it will be even faster.”
How the action unfolded:
Mikko Hirvonen has vowed to “push on” in his efforts to win Neste Oil Rally Finland for a second time and take his first victory in this year’s FIA World Rally Championship.
The Finnish hero was 1.5s quicker than Citroen team-mate and leader Sebastien Loeb to narrow the Frenchman’s advantage to 7.4s. “I was so annoyed about the first stage in the morning after hitting a tree and sliding in a couple of corners, which knocked my confidence,” said Hirvonen. “We have to see how Sebastien responds but I will push on and try to win this one. I’m going to go for it.”
Loeb, meanwhile, said he thought he had picked up a rear-left puncture in the middle of the stage after experiencing a handling imbalance.
While Hirvonen could celebrate his first stage win of the day, there was despair for Ken Block who crashed his Monster World Rally Team Fiesta following a jump. The American Gymkhana star had been on course for a top 10 finish on his Finland debut when the accident happened. Both Block and co-driver Alex Gelsomino were uninjured although their car suffered front suspension damage in the incident.
Norwegian Mads Ostberg said he had a “big moment” over a jump, which was more severe than he thought it would be following reconnaissance. He remains in fifth overall for the Adapta World Rally Team behind factory Ford drivers Jari-Matti Latvala and Petter Solberg, who were third and fifth fastest respectively.
Following his retirement on Friday, Chris Atkinson has restarted under Rally 2 rules in his Qatar World Rally Team Citroen. As a result the Australian is running second on the road behind Russian Evgeny Novikov. “When you are out of the fight in Finland it’s hard to find that motivation,” said Atkinson. “It’s loose out there too so we’re losing time. Hopefully we can go quicker this afternoon.”
In the battle to be the top MINI John Cooper Works WRC driver, Armindo Araujo has demoted Riku Tahko in the overall classification. Meanwhile, Sebastian Lindholm picked up a right-rear puncture in his Fiesta.
P-G Andersson, in a works PROTON, has snatched the lead of the Super 2000 World Rally Championship from Craig Breen.
Following a 30-minute service halt in Jyvaskyla, stage 15 gets underway at 11:18hrs local time.
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