Saturday midday wrap: Loeb heads Finland thriller
Story from www.wrc.com
Loeb, the eight-time world champion, holds the advantage over local hero Hirvonen heading to the two runs of the ultra-fast 33.01-kilometre Ouninpohja test, the first of which goes live at 15:37hrs local time.
If Loeb can maintain his lead then he will complete a Finland treble and extend his margin in the WRC drivers’ standings. However, he concedes his team-mate Hirvonen will be a huge threat on the final brace of stages.
“For sure Ouninpohja is a really specific stage, really fast and for the Finnish specialists so I will see if I am Finnish or French,” said Loeb. “The goal now is to continue leading and hopefully keep my position.”
Hirvonen, who lost precious seconds when he nudged a tree on this morning’s opening Surkee stage, has never won a world championship rally for Citroen, which is allowing its works pilots to fight it out for top spot. He is 9.4s behind Loeb and said: “I want to win the rally and I will try to the end.”
Jari-Matti Latvala heads the Ford charge in third with Petter Solberg fourth. Mads Ostberg had been fifth in his privateer Fiesta but a mechanical failure on the second Leustu stage has dropped him to sixth behind Ott Tanak.
Matti Rantanen demoted Jari Ketomaa for seventh when the latter’s Fiesta picked up a front-left puncture on stage 15. Martin Prokop is ninth with Sebastien Ogier up to 10th after Ken Block retired from the final points-paying position when a cross member broke following a heavy landing on stage 14.
Armindo Araujo dropped back in the battle to finish as the leading MINI John Cooper Works WRC driver after a trip into a ditch left his car with damaged suspension on stage 16 and put him behind Riku Tahko.
Craig Breen heads a close battle for Super 2000 World Rally Championship honours with P-G Andersson slipping 13.3s behind following a reported driveshaft failure on the last stage prior to service in Jyvaskyla.
Elfyn Evans continues to lead the FIA WRC Academy as a close fight for third rages between Brendan Reeves and Timo van der Marel.
The competitive action draws to a close with the second run of Ouninpohja at 18:00hrs local time. It counts as the Power Stage, which awards bonus points to the fastest three drivers. The finish is scheduled for 21:00hrs in Jyvaskyla’s Paviljonki centre.
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