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Rally Mexico: Citroen's Mikko Hirvonen wins qualifying stage

Mikko Hirvonen, Citroen, Mexico 2013Citroen driver Mikko Hirvonen made a perfect start to Rally Mexico with the fastest time on Thursday's qualifying stage.

The Finn's DS3 WRC was seven tenths of a second up on M-Sport Ford driver Evgeny Novikov.

Novikov's fellow Fiesta RS WRC drivers Thierry Neuville and Mads Ostberg were joint third quickest, 3.2s down from Hirvonen's benchmark.

"So far so good," said Hirvonen at the end of the stage. "It's the perfect start. Now we have to continue this for the rest of the stages. We had a clean run, no problems."

Hirvonen is expected to select 13th position on the road for Friday's opening day of stages, allowing those World Rally Car drivers slower than him through the qualifier to sweep the surface clean.

"Running order is really important here," said Hirvonen. "With a hard surface and dry conditions, it's important to be as far back as possible on the road."

The factory Citroens and M-Sport cars ran on soft-compound tyres, while Volkswagen elected to take the hard Michelin for the three-mile stage, a decision that surprised Hirvonen.

Sebastien Ogier was the fastest VW driver in fifth, 3.9s off the pace and two places ahead of team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala.

"We talked about the tyre choice," said Ogier. "And the decision was to go on the hard tyre, maybe the soft was quicker. We were first on the road, so we were cleaning it a little bit."

Latvala added: "This event is a lot about tyre management, we'll see at the finish who got it right today."

Leading qualifying stage times:

Pos  Driver              Team/Car              Time/Gap
 1.  Mikko Hirvonen      Citroen                3m57.2s
 2.  Evgeny Novikov      M-Sport Ford            + 0.7s
 3.= Thierry Neuville    M-Sport Ford            + 3.2s
 3.= Mads Ostberg        M-Sport Ford            + 3.2s
 5.  Sebastien Ogier     Volkswagen              + 3.9s
 6.  Dani Sordo          Citroen                 + 4.0s
 7.  Jari-Matti Latvala  Volkswagen              + 4.3s
 8.= Chris Atkinson      Citroen                 + 4.4s
 8.= Nasser Al-Attiyah   M-Sport Ford            + 4.4s
10.  Ken Block           Hoonigan Ford           + 9.4s
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Kosciuszko to run first, Hirvonen last