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Hirvonen extends lead on Rally de Portugal

31 March 2012


Citroen driver Mikko Hirvonen has extended his overnight lead on Rally de Portugal this morning.

Hirvonen began the day 36.3 seconds up on his closest rival and he managed to gradually increase that margin, posting the fourth fastest time in SS11 and two fifth best times in SS12 and SS13. As a result he now returns to service with his cushion up to 47.3 seconds.

Speaking after SS13, Mikko said that while conditions are less perilous today compared to Friday, it is still quite muddy and tricky: “It was slippery, but it is for everyone that's why we're not losing too much time,” said the Finn. “It was good though. If I need to use hard tyres [on the repeat loop] it'll be impossible to drive, but if that's what I've got to do then I have to do it.”

“The conditions were not as tricky as yesterday,” added Hirvonen's co-driver, Jarmo Lehtinen back in service. “But there were still some surprises. The last two were slippery but easier – you could see the road, which helps.

“There is a long way to go – I cannot say there is no pressure but we were on the safe side this morning and we managed to extend our lead a little. But there is still one and a half days to go.”

Mads Ostberg meanwhile is now second in his Adapta WRT-run Fiesta RS WRC, having moved ahead of Evgeny Novikov in the very first stage today. He was keen to push for the win, but his engine dropped to three cylinders in SS13.

“No big dramas today. We had some engine problems on the last stage but it went according to plan on the first two. We took time from Novikov which was the intention and we hoped to take some time from Mikko but that didn't happen. If the weather stays like this, we will focus on second position but if the weather changes, we can think about Mikko,” he noted.

Behind, Novikov is 22 seconds adrift in third and he had some engine issues of his own to contend with in SS12 and SS13: “I'm still struggling with a misfire on the engine,” he said after Loule 1. “We'll get it looked at in service. We also lost the sump-guard in the water splash which is still under the car somewhere.”

Patrik Sandell is next up and fourth in his Prodrive WRC Team MINI John Cooper Works WRC car, albeit almost 3 minutes adrift now of that final podium place.

After Sandell, Martin Prokop remains fifth, with Nasser Al-Attiyah sixth and only 0.2 seconds off the Ford ahead of him.

Of the rest Dennis Kuipers and Peter van Merksteijn Jr lie seventh and eighth, with Petter Solberg now ninth. After going off yesterday in SS6, Solberg re-started today under the Rally 2 regulations – along with his Ford team-mate, Jari-Matti Latvala and a number of other runners – and the Norwegian has has hauled himself back into contention, setting the pace in two of this morning's three stages: “It is going very well. It is just a real shame about yesterday,” 'Hollywood' remarked.

Jari Ketomaa rounds out the points scorers', followed by Sebastien Ogier, Armindo Araujo, Dani Sordo, Daniel Oliveira and Latvala in positions 11 through to 15.

In the SWRC, Yazeed Al-Rajhi holds the advantage, almost 7 minutes up on Maciej Oleksowicz, while in the Academy class, which concluded after SS13, Alistair Fisher has taken the win.

The action now continues this afternoon, with a repeat-run through this morning's three tests. SS14, the 26.22 kilometre Almodovar 2 test, is due to start at 14.39 hours local time.


Rally de Portugal: Overall standings after Stage 13 (Top 10):

1. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC 2hours 10mins 38.6secs M
2. Mads Ostberg Adapta WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 47.3secs M
3. Evgeny Novikov M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 09.5secs M
4. Patrik Sandell Prodrive WRC Team MINI John Cooper Works WRC +04mins 08.8secs
5. Martin Prokop Czech Ford National Team Fiesta RS WRC +05mins 02.3secs
6. Nasser Al-Attiyah Qatar WRT Citroen DS3 WRC +05mins 02.5secs M
7. Dennis Kuipers M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +06mins 11.5secs
8. Peter van Merksteijn Jr van Merksteijn Motorsport Citroen DS3 WRC +06mins 21.3secs
9. Petter Solberg Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +06mins 31.5secs M
10. Jari Ketomaa Ford Fiesta RS WRC +07mins 09.4secs


Others

11. Sebastien Ogier VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +07mins 12.6secs
12. Armindo Araujo WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC +07mins 44.8secs
13. Dani Sordo Prodrive WRC Team MINI John Cooper Works WRC +07mins 45.6secs
14. Daniel Oliveira Brazil WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +09mins 54.0secs M
15. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +10mins 43.3secs M
16. Thierry Neuville Citroen Junior WRT DS3 WRC +12mins 06.6secs M
17. Yazeed Al-Rajhi Ford Fiesta RCC +12mins 59.2secs S
18. Ott Tanak M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +12mins 59.3secs M


SWRC standings after Stage 13 – Top 3:

1. Yazeed Al-Rajhi Ford Fiesta RCC 2hours 23mins 37.8secs S
2. Maciej Oleksowicz Ford Fiesta S2000 +06mins 56.8secs S
3. Pedro Meireles Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X R4 +08mins 38.9secs S


Notable retirements:

DNS. Paulo Nobre WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC Did not start – crashed in Qualifying stage
DNS. Kevin Abbring VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 Did not start – crashed in shakedown
SS2. Dani Sordo Prodrive WRC Team MINI John Cooper Works WRC Did not start SS2*
SS3. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC Went off the road M

SS5. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC Went off the road M*
SS5. Ott Tanak M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC Went off the road M*
SS5. Thierry Neuville Citroen Junior WRT DS3 WRC Stopped in test M*
SS5. Hayden Paddon Skoda Fabia S2000 Stopped in stage S*
SS6. Petter Solberg Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC Went off the road M*
SS6. Craig Breen Ford Fiesta S2000 Mechanical S

* denotes re-started under Rally 2

all times unofficial


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