Saturday | 15 Nov 2014

Hirvonen bounces back to reclaim second

Mikko Hirvonen regained second place in Wales Rally GB as his fierce three-car battle with Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg took more twists in Saturday afternoon’s opening two stages.

Stage info: SS14/15

SS14: Clocaenog East 2, 8.25km
This stage was used in the reverse direction last year and includes sections of Thursday’s shakedown. The road has been regraded and is smooth, but is likely to cut up as more cars pass through. It is fast, with the potential for big cuts in the corners.

SS15: Clocaenog Main 2, 13.74km
A new test over fast and flowing roads that was used in the opposite direction in 2011. A real drivers’ stage, where those who are brave could gain valuable seconds. This rally is the last time Clocaenog will be available for several years due to the construction of wind farms. 

Østberg’s hold on the position disappeared as he left the mid-leg service in Deeside when he was handed a 10sec penalty for checking in late at the start of SS12 this morning. Østberg was delayed as he worked on an intercom problem in his Citroen DS3, but insisted he was on time.

That restored Hirvonen to second but Meeke was fastest through Clocaenog East in his DS3 to move ahead by 1.1sec. Hirvonen retaliated by winning the next stage in his Ford Fiesta RS to head the Northern Irishman by 3.3sec, with Østberg a further 14.7sec behind.

The morning pass through the stages polished the surface bedrock and drivers were shocked by how tricky the conditions were.

Sébastien Ogier was fourth and eighth in his Volkswagen Polo R and his lead stood at 1min 03.0sec. “I had so much mud on the car that I felt it wouldn’t go any more!” he said.

Andreas Mikkelsen was second quickest in both stages despite no intercom after a mix-up when changing helmets in service. “The faulty one I had before service was given to Ola (co driver Floene) when we left,” explained the Norwegian.

Martin Prokop overshot a hairpin in Clocaenog East and had to reverse, and then punctured a rear right tyre on ‘Fiona’ the Fiesta RS in the next test.

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