01 Aug 08
Sebastien Loeb of the Citroen Total team has got off to an excellent start on Rally Finland, winning each of the stages run so far and giving himself a rally lead of 3.9seconds after SS4.
After 42.44 competitive kilometres Loeb’s nearest rival is Mikko Hirvonen of the BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team.
Estonian Urmo Aava is third, 13 sec adrift of Hirvonen in a privately entered Citroen C4 WRC. Dani Sordo holds fourth in the second factory Citroen, while Ford privateer Andreas Mikkelsen is a surprise fifth after an excellent morning.
“It’s been a good morning and I’m having a good battle with Mikko,” said Loeb. “It’s a hard fight though. You have to take some risks on this rally if you want to win it. But for now the feeling in the car is good, I feel okay, so I’m pushing hard.”
The biggest drama of the rally so far, however, has been the shock retirement of Hirvonen’s team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala who crashed out on SS3. The accident seems to have been caused by a right-hand steering arm, which broke shortly before a jump. Mistakenly thinking he had a puncture Latvala pressed on but lost control of his car after the jump and drove off the road into a ditch. It is not yet known whether he will restart as a Superally entrant on Saturday.
Suzuki driver P-G Andersson started the competition in a positive way, following the decision from event stewards not to impose a time penalty for his engine swap during the pre-event shakedown. Andersson lost a bit of time with a spin on Friday’s opening test, but has been the faster of the two Suzuki World Rally Team drivers on the other three.