Rally Italia Sardegna on wrc.com
Here's how to follow the action this weekend
The M-Sport World Rally Team driver kicked off his event in confident form, beating VW’s Jari-Matti Latvala in his heat by 1.7s. It was enough to topple Thierry Neuville from top spot on the time sheets.
“That was an okay stage,” Hirvonen said. “It’s good to get the rally started and I feel in a good place right now.”
Neuville admitted he couldn’t have done much more to make his Hyundai i20 WRC go any faster on the 1.3km asphalt stage that sat beside the harbour in Cagliari. “I tried to do my best,” he said. “I was maybe a little too slow over the first jump but it’s good to keep the car safe.”
Reigning world champion Sebastien Ogier eventually tied in second place with Neuville after defeating Citroen’s Kris Meeke in his heat. He was also 0.2s slower than Hirvonen.
Fourth place went to Hyundai’s Juho Hanninen, while fellow Finn Jari-Matti Latvala was fifth after losing some time when he slid wide at the final corner before the finish line.
Meeke – who appeared to crack the radiator on his DS3 WRC after landing heavily on a jump – shared fifth place with Latvala, 1.7s off the benchmark pace, and Elfyn Evans steered his Ford Fiesta RS WRC to seventh.
Eighth place went to VW’s Andreas Mikkelsen, just ahead of Henning Solberg and Mads Ostberg who completed the top ten.
Immediately after the Cagliari super special, the crews made the long return journey north to the host town of Alghero for Friday’s stages.
There are eight stages in total, totaling 159.58km. The loop of four stages that is run in the morning is repeated in the afternoon. The longest stage of the day is the ‘Loelle’ test at 27.30km.