Loeb's lead cut, Hirvonen charges

Sebastien Loeb remains in the lead post-SS5, although his overnight advantage has been slashed from 7.3 seconds to 4.4; Mikko Hirvonen heads the chasing pack, with Petter Solberg now third.

Sebastien Loeb continues to lead Rally Finland following the opening loop today, although Mikko Hirvonen has eaten into his team-mate's early advantage.

Loeb built a 7.7 second lead on Thursday, winning two of the day's three stages and he began this morning in similar style, setting the pace in SS4, the 12.75 km Urria stage and edging out Hirvonen by 0.3 seconds. However in SS5, the Frenchman was 3.2 seconds slower in his Citroen DS3 WRC car and he now heads back to service with his cushion cut to 4.4 seconds.

“I know that Mikko is very quick here and that he wasn't pushing at 100 per cent yesterday,” Loeb said. “I think the rest of the day promises to be interesting - the Finns will start to push now. The game is on!”

Petter Solberg meanwhile has moved up from sixth overnight to third, although disappointingly he has lost further ground to the Citroens and is 12.3 seconds off the lead and 7.9 seconds off second.

“I made no mistakes and I'm happy to have moved up to third,” said Solberg. “The car worked well and I'm planning a small change in service to try to improve performance further. The roads were quite rutted in places which made driving tricky, but I feel confident and I want to try to close on the two drivers ahead now.”

Jari-Matti Latvala has dropped to fourth and he was frustrated with his performance in the sister works Ford Fiesta RS WRC car.

“The opening stage was OK, but I dropped time compared to my rivals in the next one,” said the Finn. “I made some set-up changes overnight which improved my feeling with the car and I'm going to make some more here in service. I will revert to the set-up I used on the last round in New Zealand, which is close to what I have used so far but with a few small differences.

“I'm pushing hard but I need to relax and settle into the right rhythm and I'm sure my times will then improve. It's important to keep my driving clean and not push too hard so that I lose time by going sideways.”

Behind, Mads Ostberg lies fifth in his Adapta WRT-run Fiesta RS WRC, 3.4 seconds off P4, followed by Citroen Junior WRT man, Thierry Neuville, another 3 seconds or so back.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Sebastien Loeb (FRA) Daniel Elena (MON), Citroën DS3 WRC, Citroën Total World Rally Team
Sebastien Loeb (FRA) Daniel Elena (MON), Citroën DS3 WRC, Citroën Total World Rally Team
Sebastien Loeb (FRA) Daniel Elena (MON), Citroën DS3 WRC, Citroën Total World Rally Team

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