Mikko Hirvonen on brink of Rally of Portugal win for Citroen
|Sunday, April 1st 2012, 09:19 GMT|
Mikko Hirvonen is edging closer to his first victory for Citroen with just one more loop of stages remaining in Portugal.
Hirvonen suggested that he had "never driven a rally so slowly" as he was on Sunday morning as he protected his comfortable lead, which now stands at 1m40s.
Second-placed Mads Ostberg had a scare when his Adapta Ford developed an engine problem and went onto three-cylinder 'road mode' on the long Santana de Serra stage. With Evgeny Novikov (M-Sport Ford) driving very conservatively in third, Ostberg's runner-up spot should not be in jeopardy provided the team can fix the issue at service.
As expected, Petter Solberg swiftly moved up to fourth on the day's first stage, ahead of Nasser Al-Attiyah's Qatar Citroen. The former Dakar winner remains on course for his best ever World Rally Championship result, as does sixth-placed Martin Prokop (Czech National Ford), who leads Dennis Kuipers' M-Sport Ford and Sebastien Ogier's Volkswagen Motorsport Skoda.
Two of the three stage wins on the loop went to Solberg's Ford team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala. Although the Finn is relying on trouble ahead to move him up from 17th, he revelled in the Ford on soft tyres and was by far the fastest man on Sunday morning.
Citroen Junior's Thierry Neuville also impressed - third-quickest time on Santana de Serra the highlight for the Belgian as he moved back into the points following his overheating issue on Friday.
Leading positions after SS19: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen 3h39m09.2s 2. Mads Ostberg Adapta Ford + 1m40.1s 3. Evgeny Novikov M-Sport Ford + 2m26.4s 4. Petter Solberg Ford + 5m19.1s 5. Nasser Al-Attiyah Qatar Citroen + 7m15.9s 6. Martin Prokop Czech Ford + 7m54.1s 7. Dennis Kuipers M-Sport Ford + 8m14.5s 8. Sebastien Ogier VW Skoda + 8m38.0s 9. Peter van Merksteijn Jr van Merksteijn Citroen + 10m05.0s 10. Thierry Neuville Citroen Junior + 10m56.2s