12 September 2010
Ogier wins first time out in Japan
Hirvonen, who had ended Saturday just 3.7 seconds off Solberg, was similarly handicapped on the final leg by mechanical problems and he lost over a minute as a result, eventually ending up in sixth: "Okay, I manage to go to the finish. But I'm very disappointed. When the third day started early this morning, I thought I had a real chance to win," he said.
Hirvonen's team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala thus took the final place on the podium, overhauling Dani Sordo in the repeat-run through Naekawa 2. Latvala eventually finished 9.2 seconds up on the Spaniard and just 10.3 seconds off Solberg. He had mixed feelings about the result though, as he had been leading at one point on Saturday until he had driveshaft problems: "After my problems yesterday, I'm a bit surprised to finish on the podium," Latvala noted. "But, I'm also disappointed because I think I could have won here."
Further down the order, Sordo was frustrated not to be able to hold off Latvala and he was a bit mystified as to why he was not a bit closer to the pace: "Today was difficult for me," he admitted. "I don't know why I am not going faster in the slow corners."
Sebastien Loeb completed the top five and the Frenchman was strangely never really on the pace. In the end he opted to take it carefully in order to ensure he picked up points. He now heads to his home event with a 43 point lead in the drivers' championship and a win there will give him his seventh title. Victory there will also more than likely give Citroen the manufacturers' crown too, as the French team will go to the event 95 points up on Ford.
"All three days have been difficult for me," Loeb said. "These ten points though are enough to secure my position in the drivers' ranking. If I win the next rally, I'll be champion in France, my native country."
Of the rest, Stobart Ford's Henning Solberg came in seventh, nearly two minutes behind Hirvonen and more than seven minutes up on Munchi's man Federico Villagra. Henning took his first stage win in 18 months on Friday, when he was quickest in SS5, but that was the only real highlight for the Norwegian.
He said he was pleased with the result though: "It was a good final day for us. I'm happy with my times. I didn't really push because there was nothing to win. I drove carefully to get to the end."
Jari Ketomaa and Martin Prokop rounded out the top ten, the former taking the SWRC honours - 33.7 seconds up on his Czech rival. Bernardo Sousa, the only other SWRC runner on this event, retired today in SS23 with mechanical problems: "This win is very important for me and the team," said Ketomaa. "Everything worked well during the last three days."
Patrik Flodin took the PWRC victory, taking the lead in SS4 when local star Toshi Arai crashed out. Flodin eventually finished more than 2.5 minutes up on Hayden Paddon. Gianluca Linari was third in the class after Michel Jourdain retired in Naekawa 2 with mechanical problems.
The most notable retiree on this event however, was F1 2007 world champion, Kimi Raikkonen. Raikkonen had been on course to finish eighth but he went off in the first stage today when he misheard a pace note. His car was undamaged but with no spectators around, it was impossible to get back on the stage.
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