Hirvonen leads as Loeb crashes out

Sebastien Loeb's recent run of disasters continued on the first morning of the Rally Poland as the world champion had an accident on SS4

Hirvonen leads as Loeb crashes out

His main title rival Mikko Hirvonen now leads the rally, and will take the championship lead if he finishes first or second.

The duo had been enjoying an extremely close battle for the lead around the very fast Polish stages this morning, with Loeb ahead by half a second after SS2, then Hirvonen hitting the front with a tiny 0.3s margin after the next stage.

But Hirvonen was then handed a big opportunity when Loeb stopped early in the following Paprotki stage, with the crews behind reporting that the Citroen had crashed. Both Loeb and co-driver Daniel Elena were unhurt.

"I saw 1.2 kilometres from the start Sebastien was off the road," said Hirvonen. "It looks like he's rolled, but it didn't look too bad. After that I took it very, very steady because I didn't want to make the same mistake. Very strange."

The stage became even better for Ford as Hirvonen's team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala proceeded to set the fastest time and move up to second, just 2.4s behind his countryman. Dani Sordo, now the factory Citroen team's only hope for victory, has slipped away in third place and is 14.7s off the lead.

Evgeny Novikov should have moved up to an amazing fourth in the Citroen Junior car following Loeb's accident, but the Russian completed stage four with severe front end damage after a high speed trip off the road that is set to end his day.

"Just had a big off over a crest near the end of the stage," said Novikov's co-driver Dale Moscatt. "I'm not sure there's much we can do about it."

That handed fourth to the enormously impressive Andreas Mikkelsen, who has returned to the championship for a one-off appearance in a Skoda Fabia. He was amazed to find himself in the top four at the end of the first loop.

"I thought I was missing a little bit of engine power, but on the start it was very, very narrow, so I tried to take some time back there," said Mikkelsen.

Having led following last night's superspecial, Petter Solberg found his outdated Citroen Xsara no match for the frontrunners on the full-length stages and has fallen back to fifth.

"I'm trying hard and taking some risks, but I can't keep the speed up where it's fast and narrow," said the former champion.

He regained one position when Sebastien Ogier (Citroen Junior) spun back to sixth on SS4.

Stobart Ford duo Henning Solberg and Matthew Wilson are seventh and eighth, but their temporary team-mate local hero Krzysztof Holowczyc was between them until he too had a spin on Paprotki and fell back to 11th.

Mads Ostberg's rally got off to a difficult start when he was forced to stop on SS2 and remove debris from the front of his Adapta Subaru to try and prevent overheating, and things improved little in the following stages. He is already nearly two minutes off the lead in 12th.

"We were forced to stop on the first stage, the second stage was okay, and now I'm struggling a lot with the handling of the car," said Ostberg.

"The first section was very loose and I had a spin somewhere and lost maybe 20s. It's really difficult and I'm really disappointed. I don't recognise the car from Greece."

Leading positions after SS4:

Pos Driver Car Time/Gap 1. Mikko Hirvonen Ford 32m19.5s 2. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford + 2.4s 3. Dani Sordo Citroen + 14.7s 4. Andreas Mikkelsen Skoda + 34.1s 5. Petter Solberg Citroen + 40.0s 6. Sebastien Ogier Citroen + 51.6s 7. Henning Solberg Ford + 53.9s 8. Matthew Wilson Ford + 58.6s 9. Evgeny Novikov Citroen + 59.0s 10. Conrad Rautenbach Citroen +1m15.1s 
shares
comments
Solberg wins Poland superspecial

Previous article

Solberg wins Poland superspecial

Next article

Loeb: Incident was unavoidable

Loeb: Incident was unavoidable
Load comments
How Neuville stole the show from Ogier vs Evans slugfest in Spain Plus

How Neuville stole the show from Ogier vs Evans slugfest in Spain

While all pre-event chat focused on the two World Rally Championship title fighters, their closest challenger charged into the spotlight on Rally Spain. Thierry Neuville's star turn and another strong drive from Elfyn Evans in his fight with Sebastien Ogier made for an intriguing event as the 2021 campaign nears its crunch point

WRC
Oct 18, 2021
The steely determination behind the WRC’s Solberg 2.0 Plus

The steely determination behind the WRC’s Solberg 2.0

Two decades after Petter Solberg emerged as a World Rally Championship winner, his son Oliver is ready to take the WRC by storm. Having secured a part-time WRC factory drive for Hyundai in 2022, he's raring to repay the marque's faith in him and follow in his 2003 champion father's footsteps

WRC
Oct 14, 2021
Analysing the key moves in WRC’s 2022 silly season Plus

Analysing the key moves in WRC’s 2022 silly season

The World Rally Championship will step into a new hybrid era in 2022, but the car changes haven't been the only excitement that has built within the paddock. WRC's 'silly season' kicked off in a big way and all the key driver moves for 2022 - of which there are many - look set to shake things up

WRC
Oct 13, 2021
How joining Finland’s exclusive club was Evans' true WRC coming-of-age Plus

How joining Finland’s exclusive club was Evans' true WRC coming-of-age

By his own admission, the fifth World Rally Championship victory of Elfyn Evans' career in Finland last weekend was the drive of his life. Winning five stages in a row and soaking up huge pressure from the Hyundais on the fastest gravel stages around, the Welshman put in a faultless showing that proved what he is truly made of

WRC
Oct 4, 2021
Does Neuville have a point with his Rally1 rant? Plus

Does Neuville have a point with his Rally1 rant?

OPINION: Thierry Neuville's diatribe against the upcoming Rally1-spec machines that will usher in the World Rally Championship's new hybrid era was remarkable in an era where drivers are usually reticent to air their views in public. But are the Belgian's concerns about speed, safety and cost entirely valid?

WRC
Sep 16, 2021
How the WRC's new flying Finn reached new heights in the Greek mountains Plus

How the WRC's new flying Finn reached new heights in the Greek mountains

After Kalle Rovanpera’s historic feat at Rally Estonia, the Finn scaled new heights at the Rally of the Gods with a commanding victory. And this time Toyota’s young star demonstrated why the future is bright with his devastating speed and consistency at the Acropolis Rally

WRC
Sep 13, 2021
The WRC drivers that came of age at the Acropolis Rally Plus

The WRC drivers that came of age at the Acropolis Rally

Five drivers have won first time out at the Rally Acropolis, transcending the tough dirt and gravel Greek roads to cement a place in rallying folklore. Here are three of the first-time winners' tales

WRC
Sep 9, 2021
Understanding Suninen’s sudden WRC exit gamble Plus

Understanding Suninen’s sudden WRC exit gamble

From being considered a likely contender to drive the next-generation M-Sport Ford Puma in 2022, Teemu Suninen's abrupt exit has created plenty of questions. The Finn's bid to become his country's next World Rally Championship winner won't be furthered by being sidelined, but there may be reason behind the decision

WRC
Sep 2, 2021