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Hirvonen top in Rally GB shakedown.

BP Ford Abu Dhabi's Mikko Hirvonen set the pace on Thursday morning in the shakedown for the Wales Rally GB, the final round in the 2008 World Rally Championship.

Hirvonen completed the 3.90 kilometre test stage in Penllergaer Forest, 18 kilometres north of the service park in Swansea, in 2 minutes 25.6 seconds, 0.9 seconds up on Petter Solberg.

The Finn, who of course won this event last year and who won last time out in Japan, opted for three passes in his M-Sport-run Focus RS WRC car setting what would turn out to be the quickest time on his third and final go.

Sebastien Loeb meanwhile was third for Citroen, half a second off Solberg's Impreza and 0.2 seconds up on his team-mate, Dani Sordo, who was fourth in the sister C4 WRC car.

"Compared with the wintry weather we faced during recce, this morning's conditions were perfect," Loeb said. "Although the surface wasn't frozen, the going was very muddy and extremely slippery, as is so often the case on this event.

"We profited from the morning to make a few changes to the suspension set-up of our C4 WRC. Our aim wasn't to set the fastest time at all costs.

"Above all, we wanted to make further improvements to the handling of our car in these conditions where there's hardly any grip at."

"The morning went very well for us," added Sordo. "The conditions were what you would expect to find in Wales at this time of the year. Compared with the set-up we have decided to use for the start, we tried a few variants to see how our car reacted to different changes to the settings.

"Today's work could well come in useful once the event starts. The test stage started to cut up after a certain number of passes. It started to get rougher and you could see ruts beginning to form, so we decided to call it a day after a while."



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