28 Mar 08
Defending world rally champion Sebastien Loeb took the lead of Rally Argentina on SS5 after Mikko Hirvonen’s Ford Focus hit a rock and stopped 8km before the finish line.
Hirvonen’s car was left stranded with left-hand front suspension damage after the incident. Going into the stage, he had been leading the rally by 50.8 seconds.
Loeb passed the stricken Focus on his way to setting the fastest time - his first of the rally. “For sure, the situation is more comfortable now Mikko has stopped, but I don’t like to move up like this, I prefer to win on the stages,” said Loeb. “The situation for me is still difficult because I am not sure why Mikko was so much quicker than me this morning. We tried some changes in service but with Mikko stopped it’s impossible to know whether they’ve made my car quicker. I do think that running first on the road is a bit better, though. I was able feel a lot more grip after I passed his car.”
Henning Solberg of the Stobart Ford team was another driver to retire on SS5. The Norwegian, who was in eighth place overall, stopped 1.3km from the start line with broken right-hand front suspension.
Hirvonen’s exit moved Chris Atkinson up into second and Petter Solberg into the final podium position.