02 Aug 08
Mikko Hirvonen clawed back 3.3 seconds of Sebastien Loeb’s rally lead on SS19, the repeat of the Kakaristo stage.
With 37 competitive kilometres remaining on Saturday, Hirvonen trails Loeb by 11.5sec. But it could have been closer. At the 16km split Hirvonen was 5.3sec up on Loeb and on course to get the gap down to single figures.
“I was really pushing hard in there but I made a few mistakes on the narrow section near the end,” explained Hirvonen. “But at least he didn’t get away. I need to concentrate on the next two.”
Even though he completed the stage before Hirvonen, Loeb knew from the split times sent to his car that he had dropped time. “Yup, I’m slower than Mikko,” he acknowledged. “I didn’t expect to lose here; I was flat out with no mistakes. The road is very dry and very slippery, so maybe it’s cleaning a bit - I don’t know.”
Setting the fourth-fastest time was enough to move Subaru driver Chris Atkinson ahead of Henning Solberg and into fourth overall and just 16.8 seconds off Sordo in third. But like Hirvonen, Atkinson reckoned he could have been quicker through the last few kilometres. “I lost a bit of time because I thought we had a puncture and took it easy,” said Atkinson.