27 Apr 08
The midday leader of the Jordan Rally, Mikko Hirvonen, says he can’t afford to relax if he’s to keep Dani Sordo behind him.
The BP-Ford team leader will start the repeat loop of stages with an overall lead of 7.7sec. But the cleaner roads of the second pass should make things easier for Sordo, who faced the worst of the loose gravel on the morning loop.
Hirvonen’s best opportunity to extend his lead over Sordo came during the 41km Jordan River stage, SS19. But a strong performance from the Spaniard meant Hirvonen was only 2.3sec quicker.
“I thought it might clean a bit more,” said Hirvonen. “I pushed as far as I could, but I kept having little moments where I could not get the right lines. It was so difficult. I take my hat off to Dani. He did a magnificent job. But okay, we are in the lead at the moment and it’s still going to be a bit fight. I need to go flat out.”
Sordo meanwhile was delighted with his time through the epic stage and with 67km remaining he trails Hirvonen by just 7.7sec. “It was very slippery, but I pushed as much as I could. I am very happy with my stage time here," he said.
Despite trailing Sordo by more than three minutes, Chris Atkinson of the Subaru World Rally Team is third and on course for his fourth podium finish this year.
Stobart Ford driver Henning Solberg is fourth, with team-mate Matthew Wilson behind him fifth. Wilson stopped on SS19 to change a wheel and dropped around two and a half minutes. “It was a wrong pace note and we clipped a bridge parapet,” he said. “I tried to carry on but we had picked up a puncture on the left-hand rear wheel and had to change it.”
Federico Villagra is sixth, Khalid Al Qassimi seventh and after losing 10 minutes with suspension damage on SS12, Jari-Matti Latvala is eighth. “After the stage we tried to strap the suspension together but it wouldn't hold and I had to drive many kilometres with the tyre bent in,” he said. “I was lucky to get back and now I must clear my mind and try to get some points." His team replaced the gearbox, rear differential and rear suspension during the 30-minute.
Gigi Galli is in ninth place while the new leader of the J-WRC competition, Sebastien Ogier, rounds off the top ten.