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Hirvonen to run first, Ford and Citroen opt for different tactics

29 March 2012


Mikko Hirvonen will run first on the road today on Rally de Portugal in his DS3 WRC, after Citroen and Ford both took very different decisions when selecting their starting positions.

Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala had first pick of position after winning the qualifying stage and he duly opted to run last in the order, when conditions should, in theory be best, as the competitors ahead will have swept the road, leaving a cleaner and quicker line. Petter Solberg also opted to run at the back in the sister works Fiesta RS WRC and will start one place in front in 16th.

Citroen, however, have opted for the first two positions, as the team believes more time will be lost if there is lots of hanging dust on Thursday's three night stages.

“We, as a team, are confident that the cleaning effect is greater than possible problems with the dust,” Latvala explained on the official site for Rally de Portugal. “There might be problems with rocks but then, that can be the case for anyone. I think if there is dust, then for sure, it will be a problem but the organisers say they will damp the road, so I hope it will help.

“We discussed it a lot within the team and spent a lot of time working out the best course. I was surprised at the positions that Citroen chose - I thought one car might go early but I didn't expect them both to be first and second.

“It is very exciting, that we have chosen such a completely different approach for the rally. I think our strategy is the risky one but if you always play the safe card, it can be difficult to catch the opposition.”

Hirvonen added: “We are not assuming it will be dry - it might rain as well but even then, I would prefer to be first on the road. For me, that's the safer choice. If it's dry and there is wind, then perhaps Jari's position will be better but that's a big gamble.

“I might lose 20 seconds over three stages but if there is dust, he might lose half a minute. We decided what our ideal position would be before the Fords chose their positions.”

The full starting order for the 17 priority seeded drivers is as follows:


Rally de Portugal: Day 1 running order:

1. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC M
2. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC M
3. Ott Tanak M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC M
4. Dani Sordo Prodrive WRC Team MINI John Cooper Works WRC
5. Jari Ketomaa Ford Fiesta RS WRC
6. Thierry Neuville Citroen Junior WRT DS3 WRC M
7. Armindo Araujo WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC
8. Martin Prokop Czech Ford National Team Fiesta RS WRC
9. Nasser Al-Attiyah Qatar WRT Citroen DS3 WRC M
10. Daniel Oliveira Brazil WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC M
11. Peter van Merksteijn Jr van Merksteijn Motorsport Citroen DS3 WRC
12. Dennis Kuipers M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC
13. Patrik Sandell Prodrive WRC Team MINI John Cooper Works WRC
14. Mads Ostberg Adapta WRT Fiesta RS WRC M
15. Evgeny Novikov M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC M
16. Petter Solberg Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC M
17. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC M


Paulo Nobre WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC*

* Will not start, crashed in shakedown


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