13 Jun 08
Mikko Hirvonen regained the lead of Rally Turkey on SS7 thanks to some careful driving in difficult conditions and a puncture for his BP-Ford team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala who dropped back to second.
As he returned to Kemer for the second 30-minute service of the day, Hirvonen said the conditions on the last of the day’s repeated tests hadn’t caused him any problems. “It’s okay, everything is under control,” he said.
Most of the other WRC crews, however, reported very difficult conditions. Rocks and stones pulled onto the road during the earlier pass caused numerous punctures and as the last stage in the loop, general tread wear levels were at their highest. If that wasn’t bad enough, tyres were pushed to their limit as the temperature reached its afternoon peak of more than 30 degrees Celsius.
Latvala was one of many to experience tyres problems. He dropped around 15 seconds with a right-hand front puncture and crossed the finish line with two other badly worn Pirellis. “I hit a rock on the road,” explained Latvala. “It seems to be okay so I’m not too concerned. We still have a long way to go. Maybe I don’t want to be the leader tonight anyway!”
Sebastien Loeb was the fastest driver on the stage - his first win of the event - and moved up a place into third overall. “I always knew it would be difficult to do well with our road position but I’ve pushed hard all day,” said Loeb. “It’s going to be interesting to see what will happen on the last two stages today. Jari-Matti is flying.”
Loeb knocked Gigi Galli down to fourth place - the Italian completing the stage covered in dust because of a broken side window.
Citroen’s Dani Sordo, who was fifth after the previous stage, dropped to eight because of rear suspension damage. “It happened in a slow corner,” said Sordo. “I wasn’t going too fast but I braked too late. We should get the car back to the service okay.”
Sordo’s misfortune promoted Henning Solberg, Petter Solberg and Matthew Wilson up to fifth sixth and seventh respectively. Henning Solberg, like Galli, was covered in dust when he crossed the finish line. “Our rear tyres exploded on the last stage (SS6) and tore a hole in the right-hand rear wheel arch,” said Henning. “The car is filling with dust now and there wasn’t much we could do to stop it.” Petter Solberg brought his Subaru Impreza WRC2008 back to service with a broken right-hand front track control arm.
Per-Gunnar Andersson and Toni Gardemeister hold ninth and tenth places respectively. Both had endured a difficult stage; Andersson’s ongoing hydraulic problems meant he had to continue shifting gears manually, while Gardemeister arrived at service with an injured shoulder. “I was turning a hairpin on SS6 when the front wheel hit a rock and the steering wheel was wrenched out of my hand,” he said. I felt my left shoulder joint pop out, and then pop straight back in again. I thought it would be okay - I couldn’t feel my arm at all - but now it hurts a lot.”