Hirvonen leads Ford 1-2 in Turkey

Mikko Hirvonen has returned to the top of the World Rally Championship standings after Ford held off a late charge from Sebastien Loeb to take a one-two in Turkey

Hirvonen leads Ford 1-2 in Turkey

A puncture three kilometres from the end of the event almost denied Hirvonen the victory, but his advantage was just sufficient to hold on and win by 7.9 seconds.

"Both front tyres are completely finished and we had a puncture on the left-front corner," said Hirvonen. "I came so slowly through the last three kilometres. But it's a fantastic effort from the whole team."

Ford's controversial decision to slow on Friday afternoon so that Loeb would be promoted into the lead and forced to run first on the road for a second day proved crucial to their win.

The tactic enraged Citroen team boss Olivier Quesnel, as Loeb had to cope with more difficult stage conditions for all bar the three Sunday stages and could not keep pace with Hirvonen and Latvala.

That gave the Finnish duo enough of an advantage to hold on to their first and second positions today when Loeb was running third on the road.

The world champion was mystified by his inability to close in on the Fords this morning, but after service his pace improved. He tore into Ford's advantage early in the 31-kilometre Olympos stage that would decide the rally, only to then lose much of the time he had gained when his tyres faded in the final part of the stage.

"I tried hard in this stage, had a really good start and was faster, but we destroyed the tyres," said Loeb, who goes into the five-week summer break three points behind Hirvonen.

"I only had one spare wheel so at the end I decided to go very slow to not risk a puncture. It was a good fight, but too much road cleaning. I will be back. We cannot win every time, better to get third than to retire."

Latvala might have been able to capitalise on Hirvonen's puncture and snatch the win had he not lost several seconds with an error in the penultimate stage.

"We made a mistake when braking downhill: I couldn't stop the car, went wide and nearly stalled the engine," he explained. "It has been an unbelievable fight but today Mikko was driving really well. I gave everything but it wasn't enough."

Behind the top three, Dani Sordo recovered from day one suspension problems to charge back to fourth, beating Stobart Ford's Henning Solberg, despite an error in Olympos.

"I stalled at a hairpin and lost a few seconds, so it was full attack after that," he said. "I'm happy, fourth is very good."

After their strong showing in Greece, Subaru only managed sixth with Petter Solberg in Turkey, while his teammate Chris Atkinson broke his suspension on Friday and used the rest of the event as a test under the Superally system.

Matthew Wilson had a strong drive to seventh for Stobart Ford, running in the points all weekend. His teammate Gigi Galli had fought for the top three before losing four minutes with a loss of power on Saturday, and then withdrawing from the rally at the end of the day due to severe dehydration.

The final point went to Conrad Rautenbach, but his fellow Citroen young gun Urmo Aava could have finished in the top six had he not damaged his car on Friday morning. He rejoined for leg two and took a number of stage wins.

Munchi's Ford duo Federico Villagra and Barry Clark completed the top ten, as the Briton enjoyed a trouble-free and consistent weekend on his second WRC appearance.

Leading finishers:

Pos Driver Car Time 1. Hirvonen Ford 4h42:07.1 2. Latvala Ford +  7.9 3. Loeb Citroen + 25.7 4. Sordo Citroen + 2:25.6 5. H Solberg Ford + 2:33.7 6. P Solberg Subaru + 2:48.2 7. Wilson Ford + 4:24.2 8. Rautenbach Citroen + 7:46.7 9. Villagra Ford + 9:34.1 10. Clark Ford + 14:48.8 
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Hirvonen retains lead in Turkey

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Series WRC
Drivers Mikko Hirvonen
Author Matt Beer
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