Ford Fiestas claim podium clean sweep in Rally de Portugal
Ford claimed a 1-2-3 finish with the Fiesta RS World Rally Car in Rallye de Portugal following a late-night decision to exclude winners Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen for a technical infringement on their car.
The decision means Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson claimed their maiden FIA World Rally Championship victory in this fourth round of the season. Evgeny Novikov and Denis Giraudet were promoted to second, while Ford World Rally Team’s Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson took third.
Solberg now lies second in the drivers’ standings, just four points from the lead, after a remarkable recovery in Portugal. The 37-year-old Norwegian slipped to 13th, almost seven minutes adrift of the podium, after sliding into a ditch early in the second leg of this four-day event.
Ford World Rally Team remains second in the manufacturers’ standings but has narrowed the gap at the top to just 12 points.
Hirvonen was excluded by the rally stewards following a report from the FIA technical delegate which stated his car’s clutch did not comply with the homologation form. The report also stated that the turbine wheel in the car’s turbocharger exceeded the maximum authorised diameter. A decision on this was suspended to allow the FIA technical delegate to carry out further examinations. Hirvonen’s Citroen team appealed the exclusion and the results remain provisional pending the outcome.
“Nobody likes to see the results settled in the officials’ room and I feel sorry for Mikko and Jarmo,” said Solberg. “But tonight’s events mean I’m now only four points from the lead of the championship and Ford has made a big leap forwards in the manufacturers’ standings. I can’t wait for the next round in Argentina!”