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Hirvonen well out front at end of day three
20 October 2012
Mikko Hirvonen has finished day three of Rally Italia Sardegna with a commanding lead and now just two short stages stand between him and his first win with Citroen.
Hirvonen had no need to push during Saturday's third leg and with over a minute in hand, his biggest challenge was just keeping the concentration up and not making any mistakes.
This morning on the opening loop, he was fourth quickest in SS9, fifth in SS10 and third in SS11, increasing his lead by 9.1 seconds to 1 minute 18.7 seconds. On the repeat loop he again pulled further ahead, and posting the fourth best time in SS12, the sixth best in SS13 and the fifth fastest in SS14. The Finn will now go into Sunday 1 minute 28.2 seconds up on Evgeny Novikov and barring a disaster, looks to have the victory in the bag.
“It has been a long day,” Hirvonen reflected. “We tried to be careful and go around the rocks but it was hard to keep the concentration. Still it has been a good day at the office. We still have those two stages to do tomorrow and it is not over yet. But at the moment everything is looking good. We are just 16 kilometres away from our first win in a Citroen.”
Novikov meanwhile also ran well and despite being equally comfortable in P2, he set the pace in SS10, just to show what he can do. The Russian had no real problems, apart from a small spin in SS11: “It was a very good day for us, the aim is to keep the second position and so far it has been great,” he said.
Behind, Ott Tanak is third in the sister M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC, 52.4 seconds off P3 and with almost a 1.5 minute cushion over Mads Ostberg in fourth: “It has been really difficult,” conceded the Estonian. “This morning we tried a bit harder but the afternoon was really tough for us. It's really important for me to finish in third now and get my first [WRC] podium.”
Further back, Ostberg shined as he hauled himself back from seventh overall to fourth. The Norwegian slipped back on Friday afternoon with a rear differential failure, but with his Adapta WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC restored to full health, he whizzed through today's six stages, topping the times in four of them and posting a second and a third best time in the other two.
“I am very happy,” Ostberg stated. “Everything has been working very well. We pushed quite a lot after what happened on Friday and we scored quite a few stage wins, I am very pleased about that”.
Ostberg's form demoted Sebastien Ogier and Chris Atkinson down to fifth and sixth respectively. Ogier slipped behind Atkinson in SS12 this afternoon, only to re-take the place in SS14 and now just 3.9 seconds separate the two setting up a good final day fight between the VW Motorsport-run Skoda Fabia 2000 and the WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC car.
“It was a good afternoon, we're still battling with Atkinson for fifth position and tomorrow I'll push hard,” Ogier said.
“We made some changes for this afternoon but there's still room for improvement,” Atkinson added.
Of the rest, Andreas Mikkeslen lies seventh, more than 1.5 minutes off the fight for P5 ahead, while Martin Prokop, Petter Solberg, who re-joined under the Rally 2 format, and Karl Kruuda hold positions 8 through to 10.
“We were not pushing today,” said Solberg. “I was quite disappointed this morning. I feel really sorry about what I did because I let [Ford boss] Malcolm [Wilson] down [when I hit a rock in SS7]. The afternoon was a bit better but now I'm thinking about Spain already”.
In the PWRC, Nicolas Fuchs still holds the lead, despite losing almost 2 minutes in SS13 with a puncture. Marcos Ligato is his closest threat, 46.1 seconds back, while Valeriy Gorban has slipped to third.
The event now concludes on Sunday and the final day includes just 16.48 competitive kilometres and one short stage, the 8.24 km Gallura test, which will be run twice.Rally Italia Sardegna: Overall standings after Stage 14 (Top 10):
1. Mikko Hirvonen
Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC 3hours 10mins 51.7secs
2. Evgeny Novikov
M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 28.2secs
3. Ott Tanak
M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +02mins 20.6secs
4. Mads Ostberg
Adapta WRT Fiesta RS WRC +03mins 48.3secs
5. Sebastien Ogier
VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +04mins 30.5secs
6. Chris Atkinson
WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC +04mins 34.4secs
7. Andreas Mikkelsen
VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +06mins 06.2secs
8. Martin Prokop
Czech Ford National Team Fiesta RS WRC +09mins 18.9secs
9. Petter Solberg
Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +10mins 15.0secs
10. Karl Kruuda
Ford Fiesta S2000 +10mins 56.6secsOthers
11. Luca Pedersoli
Citroen DS3 WRC +19mins 45.9secs
12. Giuseppe Dettori
Skoda Fabia S2000 +22mins 26.5secs
14. Nicolas Fuchs
Subaru Impreza STi +24mins 11.5secs
15. Jari-Matti Latvala
Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +24mins 36.8secs
16. Marcos Ligato
Subaru Impreza STi +24mins 57.6secs
17. Valeriy Gorban
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +25mins 09.2secs
19. Paolo Nobre
WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC +30mins 58.8secs
21. Thierry Neuville
Qatar WRT Citroen DS3 WRC +31mins 45.6secs
MPWRC standings after Stage 14 (Top 3):
1. Nicolas Fuchs
Subaru Impreza STi 3hours 35mins 03.2secs
2. Marcos Ligato
Subaru Impreza STi +00mins 46.1secs
3. Valeriy Gorban
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +00mins 57.7secs
SS2. Lorenzo Bertelli
Subaru Impreza Mechanical
SS3. Sebastien Loeb
Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC Went off
SS3/SS4. Thierry Neuville
Qatar WRT Citroen DS3 WRC Rolled
SS4. Jari-Matti Latvala
Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC Went off
SS7. Petter Solberg
Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC Went off
SS8. Paolo Nobre
WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC Stopped on road section after final test - engine
* denotes re-started under Rally 2all times unofficial