Japan - day 2: Hirvonen remains on top.

“There's a great deal at stake here and I didn't want it risk throwing it all away; we just tried to stay focused on our objective which was to consolidate our third place, and I think we succeeded quite well.”

Further down the order, Subaru's Chris Atkinson is fourth, and while he dropped behind his team-mate, Petter Solberg in SS12, he re-gained the spot in SS18, when the Norwegian went off and damaged his suspension.

"Today was ok; we started ahead of Petter but he was a little quicker and got in front,” Atkinson noted. “But then he had his accident which is unlucky for the team and the Subaru fans as we were both in good positions and you never know what could happen on this rally.

“In stage 18, when Petter went off it left a big hole in the ground and we hit it as well and spun round. We damaged our suspension a little bit, but ok we could drive still, but not flat out. I think we are too far behind to push for third tomorrow so the main aim is to keep our position."

Stobart Ford's Matthew Wilson is next up followed by the two Suzuki's of Toni Gardemeister and Per-Gunnar Andersson.

P-G dropped two minutes and two places with a puncture on the repeat loop, but moved back into the points when Petter Solberg and his brother Henning hit problems late on. Henning incidentally retired one stage before Petter with broken suspension.

“It was a real shame we had the puncture, but the roads were so rough that it was inevitable this would happen to somebody,” said P-G. “We came into a junction nine kilometres from the start [in SS16] and the soft ground just pulled the tyre off the wheel rim, so I had to stop and change it.

"That shouldn't take anything away from what has been an extremely positive day for us though. We've been second-fastest on a stage, fifth overall, and the car has been completely reliable: that's a sign of really solid progress."

Of the rest Federico Villagra rounds out the points' scorers in eighth, followed by Group N leader Jari-Ketomaa and P-WRC front runner, Evgeny Novikov.

Novikov held top stop in the Production Car World Rally Championship category all day and finished it 19.1 seconds up on Juho Hanninen. Toshi Arai is third in the P-WRC, 1.7 seconds further back.

In terms of retirements, the Solberg's brothers were the only big casualties on day two, both going out on the repeat loop. It is not yet known if they will re-start on Sunday under the SupeRally format, like Dani Sordo and Conrad Rautenbach did today.

Sordo and Rautenbach finished proceedings classified in 18th and 36th respectively.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN) Ford Focus RS WRC 07
Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN) Ford Focus RS WRC 07
Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN) Ford Focus RS WRC 07
3th place Andreas Mikkelsen ,Ola Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC, #9 Volkswagen Motorsport II)
1st place Sebastien Ogier, Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo WRC #1, Volkswagen Motorsport)
2n place Jari-Matti Latvala,  Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo WRC #2, Volkswagen Motorsport)
Michelin tyres
Robert Kubica

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