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Hirvonen lines up Rally Finland win

BP Ford Abu Dhabi team leader Mikko Hirvonen remains in the lead on the Neste Oil Rally Finland following day two on Saturday and the Finn has now increased his lead to more than 30 seconds.

Hirvonen, who began the second leg just 3.3 seconds up on his closest rival Sebastien Loeb, pushed from the off and won all three stages on the first loop to increase his cushion to 10.9 seconds.

On the middle repeat loop the Finn was again in a class of his own, setting the pace in SS14 and SS15 to stretch the gap even more.

Himos 2 though was to be decisive as the 29-year-old not only took his fifth stage win in succession, but with Loeb hitting a pot hole and picking up a front right puncture, he was 13.5 seconds quicker than the Frenchman.

With his lead doubled, Hirvonen eased his pace slightly in SS16 and thus headed back to service 28 seconds ahead.

In the end following the final loop - and another stage win, his tenth in total on this year's '1000 Lakes' - Mikko finished proceedings well on course to take his very first victory on his home event.

“It has been a really good day, and everything went completely to plan,” Hirvonen stated. “Tomorrow we will continue like I have today. It is a shame Sebastien had a problem because it was a fantastic fight. But there is not so much pressure on us now."

Loeb meanwhile has conceded defeat and is now focusing on making sure he gets to the end and secures second.

However while the puncture in SS15 was no doubt crucial, interestingly the Citroen man was slower than Mikko in all but one of the day's stages, namely the final one, the 29.29 kilometre Vaarinmaja test.

"There is nothing else to do except to finish now,” Loeb reflected. “Mikko has been driving so well and so fast and I don't think I could have caught him. Now the game is over."

Jari-Matti Latvala is next up and on course for that final place on the podium. The Finn struggled this morning with an upset stomach, but felt better as the day progressed, overhauling Dani Sordo in SS16.

He then pulled further in front on the final loop, and following his third stage win now has 10.5 seconds in hand.



Tagged as: Ford , Mikko Hirvonen , Finland

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