Mikko Hirvonen won both stages this morning as he tries to achieve the seemingly impossible and make up the 30.2 second gap to Rally of Great Britain leader and championship rival, Sebastien Loeb.

Hirvonen put in a massive charge on the opening stage, Port Talbot 1, and at the finish said: "If that's not good enough, there is nothing else I can do. I had two massive moments trying my best, one after the big jump." In fact he was only 0.8 seconds up on Loeb.

However he continued to push in Rheola 1 and managed to take a further 11.2 seconds out of Seb's lead.

"It was definitely fast. I gave it all I can, sliding all over the place. I was pretty lucky but it is still a long gap. I have nothing to lose," continued the BP Ford Abu Dhabi #1.

Loeb was only fifth fastest in SS14, but appeared happy with the situation: "It was very muddy and I didn't try too hard and took it easy, maybe too easy. No problems. For the moment it is okay," said the Frenchman, who is bidding to win a record sixth WRC drivers' title and who looks to be pacing himself to the finish.

Meanwhile Petter Solberg hasn't given up hopes of snatching the final podium placing from Dani Sordo. So far this morning Solberg has reduced the gap to the Spaniard by 11.1 seconds, bringing it down to 14.6 seconds.

After Rheola 1 an upbeat 'Hollywood' commented: "It was very slippery and muddy in there but I tried hard and I really want that third place. It's still on! I'm loving it!"

"We're trying really hard," added Sordo. "I felt I had good rhythm but I was disappointed to be seven seconds off the pace."

Further down the order, Sebastian Ogier seems far more comfortable in fifth spot, confirming that he is not trying hard, while Henning Solberg was harbouring concerns about his stage start on the opening stage.

"I had handbrake trouble at the start, I didn't steal any time. The car just jumped forward but I stood still, I hope I won't get any penalties," Henning noted.

Behind Solberg his Stobart Ford team-mate Matthew Wilson has confirmed that he now just wants to finish: "It's good when the conditions are good, but when it's tricky like it was in SS14 it's really difficult to go well and keep up the pace. We're accepting where we are and are driving for a finish and the points," said the Englishman.

Jari-Matti Latvala rounds out the top eight, despite leaving the road after the flying finish of this morning's second stage, Rheola 1. His Ford Focus RS WRC is reported to be crabbing now, raising doubts over his ability to finish the event. Ironically, at the end of the morning's opening stage the Finn had declared that his aim was to 'finish the event' and 'not do anything stupid'.

"After the flying finish jump I misheard my notes. It was so slippery I couldn't stop," Latvala recalled. "I am so grateful to the spectators for pushing me out. Something is damaged at the back. I have puncture on the nearside rear."

Conrad Rautenbach, who is ninth, also had a scare: "I thought I had a puncture. I had a small off and hit the back end on a bank, perhaps I bent something," he remarked. "We've got a wobbly rear wheel now."

Competitors now face a second run through both stages before returning to Cardiff for the ceremonial finish.

by Peter Hughes - Rally of Great Britain press office /
Edits and additional notes by Crash.net


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