Hirvonen remains in control

Mikko Hirvonen completes Saturday morning's opening loop with his lead up to 1 minute 18.7 seconds; Evgeny Novikov and Ott Tanak remain second and third, while behind Sebastien Ogier heads a three-way fight for P4...

Citroen's Mikko Hirvonen continues to comfortably lead Rally Italia Sardegna following Saturday morning's opening loop.

Indeed despite taking it relatively easily, the Finn has managed to increase his overnight lead by 9.1 seconds, having been fourth quickest in SS9, fifth in SS10 and third in SS11.

He now heads into the 30 minute mid-day service in Olbia with a 1 minute 18.7 second advantage.

"I'm taking it really cautiously and taking care to try and avoid every single rock we see on the road. It is not easy at all to concentrate. It is terrible having to drive like this. I hate it!” Hirvonen remarked. "In the last stage of the loop, I tried to manage the advantage that I have. But it's hard not to push."

Behind, M-Sport Ford pair Evgeny Novikov and Ott Tanak remain second and third respectively, the former 49.9 seconds up on his team-mate, who in turn is almost 2 minutes up on the battle for fourth. Novikov won another test this morning and was quickest in SS10. He made a mistake towards the end of SS11, but other than that he had no issues.

“We just need to keep our position. Everything is going well for the moment so we will do nothing special over the next loop and just concentrate on keeping a good rhythm. It has been a bit slippery on the first loop and we had a small spin towards the end of the last stage [SS11], but we didn't lose much time and everything is working well,” Novikov said.

"On the driving side, this morning has been really good. We have had no dramas and we have found a good rhythm – I feel comfortable and I think that we are being safe enough on the stages to hold this position," Tanak added.

“We have had a few small issues though – I think it might be something to do with the electronics because we have had a few warning lights come on. But it is not affecting the performance of the car and with service now I am sure the mechanics will be able to get to the bottom of it.”

VW Motorsport man Sebastien Ogier meanwhile continues to hold fourth in his Skoda Fabia S2000, but he was left ruing the decision to fit the long-ratio gearbox and was reeled in by both MINI WRC Team Portgual's Chris Atkinson and Adapta Ford WRT driver, Mads Ostberg. Atkinson cut the Frenchman's advantage from 19.2 seconds to just 3.3 seconds post-SS11, but it is Ostberg that is the bigger threat. Indeed the Norwegian was quickest in SS9 and SS11 and second in SS10 as he looks to make up the time lost on Friday with a rear differential failure. He now lies just 11.2 seconds back in sixth.

"We found a good set-up with the car today so I am feeling a lot more confident," Ostberg remarked. "I made a few mistakes – I had a spin and it took some time to turn around and get back up to speed. We also had a puncture, so it has been pretty eventful again!

“But I am happy with the speed. We are getting better and better, but we need to stop making these kind of mistakes. Now we have to try a few things on the car and work on improving our run through the second loop.”

Related Pictures

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Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN), Citroën DS3 WRC, Citroën Total World Rally Team
Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN), Citroën DS3 WRC, Citroën Total World Rally Team
Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN), Citroën DS3 WRC, Citroën Total World Rally Team

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