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Japan - leg 3: Mikko paces himself to victory.

Mikko Hirvonen came through to take the victory on the Rally Japan on Sunday after a number of the other works' drivers made mistakes during the three-day event and went off the road.

The BP Ford #2 driver began with the fourth best time in SS1 on Friday, before moving up to third overall in SS2 and then second in SS4, following the retirement of his team-mate, Marcus Gronholm. Heading into the mid-day service he trailed Ford 'B' team member, Jari-Matti Latvala by 5 seconds.

Hirvonen though put in a push on the repeat loop, overhauling Latvala in SS7, when he posted his first stage win of the event.

He then proceeded to pull away from Latvala and Sebastien Loeb in SS7 and SS8 and following the two runs through the Obihiro super special stages ended the first leg with a 10.3 second advantage.

Day two was again tricky for the drivers' and following heavy overnight rain the stages were extremely slippery.

Hirvonen lost out to Seb on the first test on Saturday, although only by a fraction, as he was just 0.1 seconds slower. Hirvonen then set the pace in the next test, Puray 1 - the longest of the event, but with Seb only 0.4 seconds behind it was extremely close.

The next stage though turned out to be the turning point and when Loeb and Latvala both went off, Mikko found himself comfortably in front, more than 40 seconds up on Daniel Sordo.

Following SS14, the Finn returned to the mid-day service area 50.6 seconds up on the Spaniard.

In the afternoon loop the BP Ford #2 continued to push, and once again he set top three times in every single stage, just like he had in the morning.

Following the super specials Hirvonen ended the day with a 38.4 second advantage and well on course to take his second WRC win of the year and the third of his career, to add to his triumphs in Norway and Australia.

Sunday turned out to be a mere formality and Mikko sauntered to the finish, eventually taking the honours by 37.4 seconds.

“I'm really happy,” said the Finn at the finish. “It was a difficult weekend. I'm just glad that we could help Marcus. During the whole event the car has been perfect and I was able to fight at the top. So it's a good omen before Ireland and GB.”



Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen celebrate their victory. Rally Japan 2007. [PIC CREDIT: FORD / www.worldrallypics.com]
Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen celebrate their victory. Rally Japan 2007. [PIC CREDIT: FORD / www.worldrallypics.com]
Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen celebrate their victory. Rally Japan 2007. [PIC CREDIT: FORD / www.worldrallypics.com]
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