After five stages of the WRC’s Neste Oil Rally Finland, Mikko Hirvonen (Citroën Total World Rally Team) has claimed his first fastest stage time on this year’s event on SS5 after following in team-mate Sebastien Loeb’s footsteps on the preceding four stages.
The Finn has closed the overnight leader’s margin from 7.6 seconds to 4.4 seconds, cutting 3.2 seconds from Loeb in SS5. “I did a small change with the set-up and the rest is just between your ears,” said Hirvonen. “It was a good stage, the battle is on now.”
Loeb commented: “I was pushing hard, but Mikko is a bit faster. He was not 100 percent confident yesterday, but now the game is on. The stages are more narrow than yesterday and it’s not easy, but at this moment I’m happy with my speed and the car.”
Ford World Rally Team’s Petter Solberg moved from fourth to third and demoted team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala to fourth place. Latvala commented: “I’m really trying, really pushing but I can’t match his time. He’s incredibly quick. I tried to be cleaner, but that’s not helping either.”
Evgeny Novikov has crashed his ALM Russia M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS WRC, while Jari Ketomaa (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) reported the engine on his Autotek Motorsport example was misfiring nearing the stage finish. Ott Tanak (M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS WRC) has edged ahead of Chris Atkinson (Citroën DS3 WRC) to move into seventh place.
Seven stages remain for Day Two, with 98.78km and one Service Park visit.
Leader board after SS5:
01) S. Loeb – 31m 43.8s
02) M. Hirvonen + 4.4s
03) P. Solberg + 12.3s
04) J-M. Latvala + 12.4s
05) M. Ostberg _+ 15.8s
06) T. Neuville + 19.4s
07) O. Tanak + 36.3s
08) C. Atkinson + 36.6s
09) J. Ketomaa + 56.4s
10) M. Rantanen + 01m 14.0s