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Hirvonen closes on Rally de Portugal win

1 April 2012


Citroen's Mikko Hirvonen has extended his lead even further this morning on Rally de Portugal, and with three stages to go he now has a 1-minute 40.1 second advantage.

Hirvonen, who began the day more than a minute up on Mads Ostberg, took it relatively easily through the morning loop, setting the sixth, fifth and fourth best times in SS17, SS18 and SS19 respectively. However, with Ostberg losing time with engine problems, he pulled further and further ahead.

"I'm feeling good. It's been a really steady day. I have never driven so slowly when leading a rally," Hirvonen said. "I don't need to rush anywhere, just get to the finish. I have enough soft tyres if it rains. It would be really nice to get the first win here, especially after Sebastien [Loeb - my team-mate] made a rare mistake. It was down to us to get points for Citroen. Friday was difficult and I had to not make any mistakes."

Ostberg meanwhile had to limp through Sambro 1 when his engine dropped to three cylinders: “In the middle of the long stage [SS17], the car was misfiring badly, so I switched to road mode. It continued to misfire with no power, then it came back after 1 km. Then, 1.5 kms from the end, it went back to three cylinders and was misfiring,” Ostberg explained. “After that we could not get it back to normal, so we are lucky we got through the last stage and hopefully, we can get it fixed and good for the last stages. I was struggling to get back but then 2 km before the service, it started to run fine. It's not good when it's like this. It's difficult to find the problem.”

Evgeny Novikov is next up and confirmed he was taking it easy as he closes on his best ever WRC result: “We're just trying to keep our position and finish on the podium,” he said after SS19. “We're not doing anything crazy. There were some big jumps [in that last test], but we took no risks.”

Behind, Petter Solberg has moved up to fourth, overhauling Nasser Al-Attiyah in the first very test this morning, when he was second quickest. Solberg was second fastest again in the next test, before topping the times in SS19. He now lies around two minutes up on Al-Attiyah, but after his off on Friday, is almost 3 minutes off the final place on the podium.

“It was a good morning, no problem,” said 'Hollywood'. “I had worn tyres on the back compared with other drivers but that's what I had left! It was a little difficult with the dry surface but we will see this afternoon. We have hard tyres for the afternoon, so it will have to stay dry! I think everyone is in the same position. We have to get maximum points on the Power Stage.”

Further back, Martin Prokop is sixth, followed by Dennis Kuipers, Sebastien Ogier and Peter van Merksteijn Jr. Thierry Neuville rounds out the top ten and is now on course for the final point despite a scare in SS19: “We had a very, very big moment,” he confirmed. “We went off the road. I went much too fast into a corner, but I managed to get the car out. We'll have to look at how to do it [properly] in the Power Stage.”

Of the rest, Patrik Sandell and Armindo Araujo both re-started today under the Rally 2 regulations after going out yesterday afternoon. Sandell is currently 15th, with Araujo 16th, one place ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala. Latvala set the pace in both SS17 and SS18, as he re-builds his confidence after his retirement on Friday.

In the SWRC, Haydon Paddon now leads the class after overnight leader Yazeed Al-Rajhi stopped in SS18 with front suspension damage. Al-Rajhi had been leading the category by over 8 minutes.

The event now draws to an end with a repeat run through this morning's three tests. SS20, the 21.42 km Silves 2 test, is due to start at 12.23 hours local time.


Rally de Portugal: Overall standings after Stage 19 (Top 10):

1. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC 3hours 39mins 09.2secs M
2. Mads Ostberg Adapta WRT Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 40.1secs M
3. Evgeny Novikov M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +02mins 26.4secs M
4. Petter Solberg Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +05mins 1915secs M
5. Nasser Al-Attiyah Qatar WRT Citroen DS3 WRC +07mins 15.9secs M
6. Martin Prokop Czech Ford National Team Fiesta RS WRC +07mins 54.1secs
7. Dennis Kuipers M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +08mins 14.5secs
8. Sebastien Ogier VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +08mins 38.0secs
9. Peter van Merksteijn Jr van Merksteijn Motorsport Citroen DS3 WRC +10mins 05.0secs
10. Thierry Neuville Citroen Junior WRT DS3 WRC +10mins 56.2secs M

Others

11. Dani Sordo Prodrive WRC Team MINI John Cooper Works WRC +11mins 44.8secs
12. Jari Ketomaa Ford Fiesta RS WRC +12mins 08.2secs
13. Daniel Oliveira Brazil WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +15mins 33.1secs M
14. Ott Tanak M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +16mins 25.5secs M
15. Patrik Sandell Prodrive WRC Team MINI John Cooper Works WRC +18mins 13.1secs
16. Armindo Araujo WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC +19mins 01.3secs
17. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +20mins 51.5secs M
18. Hayden Paddon Skoda Fabia S2000 +28mins 14.7secs S
19. Maciej Oleksowicz Ford Fiesta S2000 +29mins 53.2secs S
20. Pedro Meireles Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X R4 +33mins 00.4secs S


SWRC standings after Stage 19 – Top 3:

1. Hayden Paddon Skoda Fabia S2000 4hours 07mins 23.9secs S
2. Maciej Oleksowicz Ford Fiesta S2000 +01mins 38.5secs S
3. Pedro Meireles Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X R4 +04mins 45.7secs S


WRC Academy standings after Stage 13 - Top 10#:

1. Alastair Fisher Ford Fiesta R2 2hours 32mins 02.9secs A
2. Brendan Reeves Ford Fiesta R2 +00mins 40.3secs A
3. Pontus Tidemand Ford Fiesta R2 +01mins 55.7secs A
4. Timo van der Marel Ford Fiesta R2 +05mins 05.0secs A
5. Jose Antonio Suarez Ford Fiesta RS +07mins 34.5secs A
6. Fredrik Ahlin Ford Fiesta RS +10mins 16.7secs A
7. Elfyn Evans Ford Fiesta RS +15mins 55.3secs A
8. Joao Silva Ford Fiesta RS +17mins 14.8secs A

# WRC Academy event ended after SS13


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

SS14. Patrik Sandell Prodrive WRC Team MINI John Cooper Works WRC Went off the road*
SS15. Armindo Araujo WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC Lost a wheel*

SS18. Yazeed Al-Rajhi Ford Fiesta RCC Suspension damage S

* denotes re-started under Rally 2

all times unofficial


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