Wales – leg 1: Mikko masterful in Wales.

BP Ford's Mikko Hirvonen was in a class of his own on the opening day of the Wales Rally GB, the final round in the 2007 FIA World Rally Championship.

Mikko set the marker right from the off in his Focus RS WRC 07 and while poor weather throughout the day made things extremely difficult, the Finn was in commanding form, 6.5 seconds up Sebastien Loeb, who was 'best of the rest' on the opening stage.

Hirvonen then set the pace again in SS2, the 25.08 kilometre-run through Resolfen, 4.8 seconds up on his team-mate, Marcus Gronholm, to more than double his early lead.

He continued in the same vain in SS3, taking his third stage win on the trot and headed back to service A at the SA1 Swansea Waterfront with a 21.4 second cushion.

Mikko continued to pull away this afternoon and while heavy rain made things even more treacherous, the Finn continued to consolidate his lead, posting another quickest time in SS4 and then a third fastest time in SS5, 2.4 seconds off Loeb and Gronholm, who tied for the quickest time on the second run through Resolfen.

The final test of the day however was probably the hardest for all the runners and not only did they have to contend with fog and rain, but with it now dark, visibility was reduced even more. Mikko though again set the best time, 16.4 seconds up Gronholm and consequently he ended the day 39.6 seconds up on his illustrious team-mate.

“The conditions were terrible,” commented Hirvonen, who's best previous result in GB was a seventh place finish three years ago. “I was unable to see even on the straights at times - it's unbelievable.

“I've never experienced anything like it. The fog has been around all day and the rain just got worse and worse making the conditions really, really bad – like a white wall.”

Gronholm, who moved ahead of Loeb in SS3 to finish the morning loop just 1 second up on his championship rival, pulled further ahead on the repeat runs and he finished proceedings 18.3 seconds up on the Frenchman.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) / Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN), BP Ford Focus RS WRC 06.
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