14 June 2009
Hirvonen grabs first victory of year
BP Ford Abu Dhabi's Mikko Hirvonen claimed the honours in Greece this weekend, coming through to triumph on the 56th Acropolis Rally, the seventh round in the 2009 World Rally Championship.
Hirvonen was gifted the lead late on Friday, when his team-mate, Jari-Matti Latvala ran into difficulties. It was a position he would never relinquished and while he anticipated losing ground on day two due to his road position, in the end it was his rivals that floundered, with Sebastien Loeb, Dani Sordo and Petter Solberg all falling by the wayside.
Indeed despite having to play the 'road sweeper' on Saturday, Hirvonen ended the second leg with a 1 minute 40.1 second cushion and he then opted for a measured approach through Sunday's final tests.
The Finn eventually took P1 by 1 minute 12.9 seconds, the first time he has stood on the top step of the rostrum since the Rally Japan at the end of last season. The win couldn't have come at a better time either, especially as championship leader Sebastien Loeb failed to score. As such Mikko is now right back in the fight for the 2009 drivers' title, the gap between him and Seb coming down from 17 points to 7.
“I drove cleverly, no punctures and no mistakes,” said Hirvonen. “It was fantastic. If you get through this difficult rally like this, you are the winner. We are back in the fight. The championship is alive again.”
Sebastien Ogier meanwhile notched up his best ever WRC result with the runners-up spot, despite quite a big a scare this morning in SS14 when he crashed into a cow and damaged the front of his Citroen C4 WRC.
The Frenchman, who won the Junior World Rally Championship last season and who has had a bit of a mixed debut season in a full WRC car, ran strongly throughout posting top-ten times in 14 of the 15 stages, including winning SS5 on Friday.
With his programme still to be confirmed after the next event in Poland, he reckons it should be a real help: "This second place comes at a perfect moment. I have to thank very much the team, at the start it was difficult with punctures, but we didn't have problems with the car. It was a perfect weekend, we drove without mistakes conserving the car. I am very happy. We will see about the rest of the season, it is better for us now, with this result," he confirmed.
Jari-Matti Latvala completed the podium and ensured the BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT took the maximum manufacturers' points, as Ogier is not registered for the Citroen Junior Team.
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