WRC – Hirvonen Leads Rally Australia, Latvala Chasing Hard

September 10, 2011


FINLAND’S Jari-Matti Latvala has proved that he won’t give
up on winning Rally Australia without a fight after clocking the fastest time
on today’s final gravel test to cut Ford team-mate Mikko Hirvonen’s lead to


With rain returning following a brief respite, Latvala was
2.9s quicker than Hirvonen in his works Fiesta RS WRC.


“It didn’t affect my driving because the road was slippery
enough already,” he said.


Hirvonen said: “It’s good because it wasn’t raining so much
for me on the stage. The conditions have been like hell, unbelievably


New Zealander Hayden Paddon continues to lead the Production
Car World Rally Championship in seventh overall, one place behind Team Abu
Dhabi’s Khalid Al Qassimi.


Hirvonen completed the 12.78-kilometre seventh special stage
4.1s faster than Latvala, with Petter Solberg third quickest in his privateer


Russian Evgeny Novikov stopped 1.5 kilometres into the stage
after hitting a rock in his M-Sport Stobart Fiesta. His retirement promoted
teammates Henning Solberg and Matthew Wilson into fourth and fifth places


Hirvonen moved into the lead of Rally Australia, being
staged on the New South Wales Coffs Coast, after Sebastien Ogier crashed out of
first place.


Ogier began the Shipmans stage with a lead of 9.1s over
Hirvonen but was reported to have hit a tree and retired his works Citroen DS3


His teammate and championship leader Sebastien Loeb retired
for the day after rolling over on stage two this morning. His team was working
to repair the car for tomorrow.


“It was so unbelievably slippery and when you brake it is
like ice,” said Hirvonen.


Cont/ . .


Page 2


“I went off the road but it was into a field so there was
nothing to hit.”


Latvala, who won the stage held in treacherous conditions
following heavy rain, said: “I had few moments and a couple of times I was
hitting the banks to keep on the road. It was extremely difficult, even
dangerous in some places.”


Several drivers reported spins or going off the road
completely as the slippery surface took its toll.


Al Qassimi removed the front bumper from his Team Abu Dhabi
Fiesta while Daniel Oliveira completed the stage with damage to the radiator of
his MINI John Cooper Works WRC following an off.


Paddon continued to lead the Production Car World Rally
Championship despite reporting that he went off the road on several occasions.


“I don’t care about how much time I lost – I’m just so
relieved to be here,” he said.


Loeb accepted blame for the crash that put him out of the
lead this morning.


Loeb was leading the world championship qualifier by 2.0s
when he rolled an estimated five times approximately halfway through the
12.78-kilometre Brooklana test after taking a right-hand turn too quickly.


“I went too fast into the right-hander because I done the
mistake when I saw a split time on the dash,” said Loeb. “I was not
concentrated, I didn’t brake enough for the corner and I was too fast.”


Loeb denied he had been pushing too hard in the slippery


He added: “I was not taking risks and I had done a very
clean stage before that. I was looking at something when I saw the corner too


M-Sport Stobart driver Matthew Wilson described the moment
when he encountered Loeb’s stricken Citroen DS3 WRC.


“I couldn’t really believe it – it was quite a shock,” said
Wilson. “It wasn’t a very fast place, a slow right after a fourth-gear right.”


The cars were due to complete one more stage this afternoon
before a break preceding a return to the Castrol Edge Super Special Stage in
the Coffs Harbour Jetty area tonight.

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