Midday wrap: Solberg leads in Finland as Hirvonen crashes out Petter Solberg holds a slender lead on Neste Oil Rally Finland after the opening loop of stages but the big talking point so far has been the accident that eliminated local hero Mikko...
Midday wrap: Solberg leads in Finland as Hirvonen crashes out
Petter Solberg holds a slender lead on Neste Oil Rally Finland after the opening loop of stages but the big talking point so far has been the accident that eliminated local hero Mikko Hirvonen from the high-speed gravel event.
Hirvonen, driving a factory Ford Focus RS WRC, had been setting a rapid pace and was leading by 4.9s after three special stages only to crash out on a right-hander nine kilometres into stage four, the 12.75-kilometre Urria test.
The Focus rolled a number of times and Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen were taken to hospital for checks. Ironically, Hirvonen said before the start that the stage was his favourite in the world championship.
His misfortune elevated Solberg into first place in his privately-run Citroen C4 WRC, 1.3 seconds ahead of Hirvonen's team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala who, like Solberg, has never won the Jyvaskyla-based event. "We were a bit shocked to see Mikko out," said Solberg. "It's a long rally and I try to be consistent and stay where I am."
Dani Sordo has enjoyed an impressive morning on his first outing with the Citroen Junior Team. The Spaniard was fastest through stage five, Jukojarvi, and is 5.1s off the lead.
Sebastien Ogier, the man who replaced Sordo in the main Citroen squad, is fourth after recording the quickest time on stage four. However, team-mate and world champion Sebastien Loeb has endured a tough morning.
The front splitter of his C4 became detached 19 kilometres into stage three and the French ace reported his car lacked handling precision and was lifting over the jumps.
Loeb also lost time running first on the road although overnight thunderstorms had compacted some of the loose surface.
Henning Solberg is sixth after surviving a half-spin on stage three where Hirvonen was also in trouble. Despite going fastest, Hirvonen took out a post, which landed on his windscreen and necessitated a replacement at the refuel prior to stage four, where he retired.
Matthew Wilson is seventh after Mads Ostberg dropped time with a smashed wheel on stage five and fell down the order. Ex-Formula One world champion Kimi Raikkonen is eighth in his Citroen C4 with Focus pilot Khalid ninth.
Four-time world champion Juha Kankkunen, making his return to the WRC on the 60th anniversary of Rally Finland completes the top 10 in his Focus prior to service in Jyvaskyla.
Emerging Finn Jari Ketomaa tops the Super 2000 World Rally Championship in his Ford Fiesta with wildcard Juho Hanninen, at the wheel of a Skoda Fabia, close behind.
Ketomaa has never been headed in the class. Finn Juha Salo is the early leader in the Production Car World Rally Championship having overtaken Pirelli Star Driver Ott Tanak, in a similar Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X on stage three. Patrik Flodin is third in a Subaru Impreza.
The afternoon's action resumes at 1358hrs local time with the first of six stages before crews return to Jyvaskyla for the day's final service.