Saturday | 15 Nov 2014

Østberg piles pressure onto Hirvonen

With Sébastien Ogier holding a comfortable lead in Wales Rally GB, attention turned to the intense three-car battle for second in Saturday morning’s first pass through the Aberhirnant and Dyfnant special stages.

Stage info: SS11/12

SS11: Aberhirnant 1, 13.87km
Another fast test, with long straights in the opening 2km and high-speed corners that are not for the faint-hearted. The trees have been cut back in several places to improve visibility. It was used in the opposite direction last year, but has not been run in this format since 1991.

SS12: Dyfnant 1, 19.98km
Dyfnant is wide and flowing from the start, on a surface that is in good condition. Towards the finish the road descends through a fast section with appetising corners that will encourage drivers to attack.

Mads Østberg was the man on the move, the Citroen DS3 pilot second fastest in both tests to overhaul Kris Meeke for third and close to within 0.5sec of Mikko Hirvonen ahead.

“A big push in there, we have to work hard for this afternoon,” Østberg told WRC Live after Dyfnant, recalling yesterday’s second pass through the stages when he dropped time with set-up issues.

Hirvonen (pictured below) relished the battle in his last rally before retiring from the sport. “It’s a really great fight but I haven’t been so smooth this morning and I made a few mistakes here and there,” he said.

Meeke is 1.4sec behind Østberg and stalled his DS3’s engine at the opening hairpin in Dyfnant. “It’s a good fight but we have to remember the manufacturers’ championship. That’s important,” said the Northern Irishman.

Ogier took no risks in his Volkswagen Polo R, 10th in Aberhirnant and ninth in Dyfnant to head towards the final morning stage with a 1min 10.5sec lead.

Team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen enjoyed the best of the conditions from first in the start order and was quickest in both stages to make it four in a row.

Jari-Matti Latvala dropped more time in his Polo R with a broken front right damper, a legacy of his opening stage crash, while Henning Solberg, who was third in Aberhirnant, finished Dyfnant with worries about the alternator in his Ford Fiesta RS.

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