Turkey - day 3: Tactical win for Hirvonen.

Mikko Hirvonen took a strategic victory on the Rally of Turkey this weekend to put himself back top in the drivers' championship heading into the six-week summer break.

Hirvonen had led for pretty much all of the opening leg in his Ford Focus RS WRC07, despite not winning a single stage, until he deliberately eased off before the finish of SS9 - the final test on Friday - and watched almost 20 seconds pass before completing the test.

That dropped him to fifth on the leaderboard, but more importantly it meant he would benefit from better road conditions on day two and avoid losing time having to sweep away the slippery loose gravel.

While not entirely uncontroversial - the same tactic was also employed by his team-mate, Jari-Matti Latvala and fellow Ford runner, Gigi Galli, and it left Sebastien Loeb once again playing the 'road sweeper'.

Hirvonen exploited his advantage perfectly on leg two and immediately hauled himself back into the lead on the first loop, winning SS10 and SS11, to give himself a 2.9 second lead. He then increased his cushion four-fold in the middle loop, before gaining more time in the final three stages. He finally finished day two around 16 seconds up on Latvala - and almost 35 seconds up on Loeb.

Sunday however was not a formality and now it was Mikko's turned to play the cleaner. Despite losing 7.5 seconds on the first stage, when he stalled at the start, the Finn took 5.2 seconds back in SS18 and that 12.7 second advantage was enough to give him the win - his second of the season.

Hirvonen eventually triumphed by 7.9 seconds following a nail-biting final test and he now has a three point lead going into his home event - the Rally Finland in August.

"I promised Malcolm Wilson I would lead the championship going into my home rally in Finland next month and I am. It was the right moment for a win because we struggled on the last round in Greece and this is perfect timing. It feels very special to beat a four-time world champion in a straight fight," reflected the 27-year-old, who felt ill throughout the rally and was unable to eat.

"Our tactics worked so well and I didn't panic this morning when I was first on the road and had to sweep the stages. This is my best result because it was such a big team effort. It looks like it will be an exciting championship battle in the second half of the season."

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) Jarmo Lehtinen(FIN), Ford Focus RS WRC07, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Hayden Paddon (NZ), Hyundai Motorsport [Credit: Haydn Paddon Rallysport Global]
Sebastien Ogier, Volkswagen Motorsport, [Credit: Volkswagen Motorsport]
Thierry Neuville (BEL), Hyundai Motorsport [Credit: Hyundai Motorsport]
Skoda Fabia R 5 (CZE), Skoda motorsport [Credit: Skoda motorsport]
Meeke, Breen, Circuit of Ireland Rally [Credit: Circuit of Ireland Rally]
Kris Meeke [Credit: Crash.net]
Kris Meeke [Credit: Crash.net]
Tanner Foust [Credit: FIA World Rallycross]
RX: Foust [Credit: FIA World Rallycross]
Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferm test the new Fabia R5 [Pic credit: Skoda]
Jan Kopecky / Pavel Dresler test the new Fabia R5 in Italy [Pic credit: Skoda]
Kevin Abbring / Seb Marshall. Hyundai Motorsport N. i20 WRC. Rally Sweden [Pic credit: Hyundai]
Kevin Abbring / Seb Marshall. Hyundai Motorsport N. i20 WRC. Rally Sweden [Pic credit: Hyundai]
Kevin Abbring / Seb Marshall. Hyundai Motorsport N. i20 WRC. Rally Sweden [Pic credit: Hyundai]

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