17 Jun 08
A revved-up Mikko Hirvonen held onto the lead of Rally Turkey on Sunday’s opening stage, but his lead margin was slashed from 16.2sec to 7.5sec by his hard charging Ford team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala.
Tackling Sunday’s stages as first car on the road, Hirvonen got off to a terrible start when he stalled his Focus RS on the line and lost five seconds. But the Finn said the early mishap gave him increased motivation through the 31km stage. “I was angry after the stall, and maybe that helped a bit - I pushed absolutely flat-out from then on,” he said. “I think I cut every corner but it turned out well, it was a good drive. I don’t know what the others will do but I think its going to be close.”
Next to complete was Jari-Matti Latvala, who took a sizeable chunk from Hirvonen’s lead and confirmed his plan to snatch the rally win later on. “I tried to stay nice and calm through the stage, but Mikko is driving brilliantly,” said Latvala. “I think the stage went well for us; we had a clean run and I’m feeling relaxed. It’s an interesting situation but of course I want to win. That’s why I’m here. That’s what this is all about.”
Defending World Champion Sebastien Loeb was third through the stage but despite the theory of a cleaner racing line, the Frenchman wasn’t able to go as fast as Latvala. “It’s not enough,” said a downbeat Loeb at the stage end. “I don’t know why the time isn’t better. I tried hard and I think I drove well. Maybe I didn’t, I don’t know. I cannot do any more.”
A time quicker than Latvala’s enabled Citroen Total team driver Dani Sordo to move ahead of Henning Solberg into fourth overall. “No problems, I’m happy,” said Sordo. I wanted to pass Henning, so I pushed hard, but it looks like he had a problem at the end.”
“My brakes weren’t working properly,” said Henning. “We swapped the differential yesterday and I’ve had to adjust my driving. It’s unfamiliar, but I’ll keep trying my best.”