18 May 08
Sebastien Loeb’s 29.4 sec overnight lead of Rally d’Italia took a heavy hit on Sunday’s opening test when Mikko Hirvonen beat the Frenchman by 10.3 seconds.
“I’m pushing hard but the road is definitely cleaning,” said Loeb. “I reckon each place back is worth about three seconds.”
Hirvonen began the final day joint second with his BP-Ford team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala, but capitalised on a slightly cleaner road position to take a sensational first stage win of the rally.
Hirvonen’s pace through the stage was 0.5sec/km quicker than Loeb’s - which gives him every chance of challenging Loeb for victory. “It’s game on,” said Hirvonen. “I’m really enjoying it.”
Latvala, who was fastest on all of Saturday’s stages, was the closest to Hirvonen’s time on SS13, but completed the 19km section five second slower.