WRC: Hirvonen Closes Points Gap with Acropolis Rally Win

Tony CastaneiraAnalyst IJune 15, 2009

Mikko Hirvonen drove an almost flawless rally and cruised to an easy victory by over a minute in the World Rally Championship Acropolis Rally. 

In doing so, he closed the gap on championship leader Sebastien Loeb.

Hirvonen explained his strategy on taking his first victory of the year.

“I drove a clever rally and my plan worked perfectly, with no mistakes and no punctures. I knew that if we finished the rally without problems then we would be high in the order and that was the case. The key to success was to stay on the road and be cautious rather than drive flat out all the way.”

Capping a great event for the BP Ford Abu Dhabi team was Jari-Matti Latvala’s third place to put the team firmly back in the running for the manufacturers’ title.

Loeb’s challenge came to a halt on Saturday morning as he crashed out of the rally. The team’s challenge was further damaged as Dani Sordo was also hit by problems on day two.

The Citroen Junior team’s young drivers salvaged the French manufacturer’s honor by posting some excellent times over the weekend.  Sebastien Ogier took his first ever WRC podium as he placed second with teammate Conrad Rautenbach a little farther back in fifth.

Benoit Nogier, Manager of the Citroën Junior Team, was obviously pleased with his driver’s results.

“This made result of the good to all the team. We have come through a difficult start to the season, but the team progressed and the success is perhaps from now on our side. It is the first time that a non-works C4 WRC has finished on the podium in a WRC event. Seeing all three cars safely home is also very satisfying.”

Munchi’s Ford driver Federico Villagra equaled his best ever WRC result with fourth place.

Final Leaderboard

1. Hirvonen/Lehtinen Ford Focus 4h09’42’’5
2. Ogier/Ingrassia Citroën C4 +1’12’’9
3. Latvala/Antilla Ford Focus +1’45’’0
4. Villagra/Diaz Ford Focus + 3’48’’3
5. Rautenbach/Barritt Citroën C4 +3’59’’8
6. Al Qassimi/Orr Ford Focus +7’04’’3
7. Ostberg/Andersson Subaru Impreza +12’24’’9
8. Athanassoulas/Zakheos Skoda Fabia +12’47’’6
9. Al Attiyah/Bernacchini Subaru Impreza +13’09’’9
10. Araujo/Ramalho Mitsubishi Lancer +15’04’’5
11. Arai/Mac Neall Subaru Impreza +16’02’’5
12. Sordo / Marti Citroën C4 +18’41’’0

FIA WRC Manufacturer Standings

1. Citroen Total WRT - 94
2. BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT - 79
3. Stobart VK M-Sport Ford - 49
4. Citroen Junior Rally Team - 24
5. Munchi’s Ford WRT – 18

FIA WRC Driver Standings

1. S Loeb - 55
2. M Hirvonen - 48
3. D Sordo - 31
4. J-M Latvala - 25
5. H Solberg - 21
6. P Solberg - 20
7. M Wilson - 15
8. Federico Villagra – 14

Photo: ©willyweyens-rallyworld