WRC A FULL 2014
HIRVONEN IN THE HUNT.
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mikko Hirvonen is on course to secure a strong haul of points at the 50th edition of RallyRACC – Rally de España. The Finn currently holds fifth place overall and is in the hunt for a coveted podium position.
24 October 2014
Following yesterday’s spectacular Super Special in the shadow of Barcelona’s famous Montjuïc fountains, the event resumed with a day of six predominantly gravel speed tests on which Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen showcased the best of their professional partnership.
As the late summer sun beat down on the loose-surface stages, dust made visibility an issue. Trusting his pacenotes, the Finn piloted his Ford Fiesta RS WRC to a strong fourth place after the morning loop – just 0.3 seconds adrift of the third-placed crew.
Despite losing out to a resurgent Andreas Mikkelsen throughout the afternoon loop, the Finn remains on course to defend his fourth place in the drivers’ standings. Just 4.8 seconds adrift of second place, Hirvonen will be looking to make further gains on his championship rivals as the action resumes on asphalt tomorrow.
In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Elfyn Evans displayed flashes of pace but was hampered by his later road position. The hanging dust made it difficult to read the stages, but the youngster held his own over the morning loop and was ready to mount a comeback with a cleaner run over the second pass.
Unfortunately, his Rally de España misfortune made an unwelcome comeback on the second pass of ‘Pesells’ (SS6). Running wide just five kilometres shy of the flying finish, the Welshman damaged the radiator of his Fiesta and was unable to complete the loop.
Thanks to the expertise of M-Sport’s technicians, Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt will restart under Rally 2 regulations tomorrow. With their Fiesta transformed into its asphalt guise, the pairing will be keen to showcase further progression on the event’s renowned circuit-like roads.
Mikko Hirvonen (5th) said:
“I think today has been pretty good. We’re not so far behind second place and there are many drivers that are really close so I think we can have a really good fight tomorrow.
“One of the hardest things in this rally is switching from one surface to the other overnight. I’m going to have to be awake in the morning to be able to change the rhythm and be competitive on Tarmac. That switch has to happen straight away.
“Of course the Volkswagen’s are really strong on Tarmac, but anything can happen so let’s see what we can do.”
Elfyn Evans (19th) said:
“This definitely doesn’t seem to be one of the luckiest events for me and we’ve not had the best of days today. We had reasonable pace, but three big mistakes. The last one was enough to finish the day for us but fortunately the car doesn’t look too badly damaged.
“There’s no reason why we won’t be able to put this behind us and start a fresh tomorrow. We’re coming off the back of two very strong performances on asphalt, so we just need to reset and see what we can do.”
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“I think Mikko [Hirvonen] has had a really good day. He’s in what looks set to be a very close battle for the final podium positions and it’s great to hear him so upbeat at the stage ends. His confidence is high, and he’s looking forward to tomorrow’s Tarmac stages.
“Elfyn [Evans] was looking forward to showing what he could do on gravel. Unfortunately, there were a few small mistakes getting back into the gravel pacenotes. His mental strength is strong, so when he returns to the stages tomorrow I have no doubt that he’ll be able to put the disappointment behind him.”
KUBICA GAINS ON GRAVEL
RK M-Sport World Rally Team’s Robert Kubica highlighted his improvement on gravel today as RallyRACC – Rally de España got underway with a string of predominantly loose-surface speed tests. Continuing to showcase his progression, Robert holds sixth place on the eve of the event’s Tarmac stages.
The day’s action consisted of two loops of three identical stages and the Pole was quick to build his pace. Following what has been a long stint on asphalt for the FIA World Rally Championship – with two extensive pre-event Tarmac tests as well as the sealed-surface stages of Rallye de France – he quickly adapted to the art of gravel rallying and worked to improve his pace throughout the day.
Hanging dust posed an issue for many crews, but despite his disadvantaged road position Robert was rarely more than a handful of seconds adrift of the fastest stage times – producing what has arguably been his best loose-surface performance of the year so far.
In spite of a small spin through the second pass of ‘Terra Alta’ (SS7), the Formula One race winner has established a solid platform on which to build and will be looking to display further progression tomorrow.
Robert Kubica (6th) said:
“I think that the driving has been good today, but we ‘finished’ the tyres on the Tarmac section [of SS7] and I had a spin around five kilometres from the end. There was a narrow section and we got some oversteer. Unfortunately I had my right hand on the handbrake as there was a left-hand hairpin immediately afterwards and I didn’t have any chance to recover the car. Apart from that, I think the pace has been very good.
“This will be my first time having to change so quickly from gravel to Tarmac so I don’t expect it to be so easy. We have a short warm-up but then we are straight into a demanding 50 kilometre stage so we will have to be quite clever with the tyres, with the car, with everything. I think it will be an interesting day.”
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Robert [Kubica] has driven well today. He’s shown how much he has progressed on gravel and I think that this has arguably been his best loose-surface performance of the year. It was a shame about the spin on the last stage [SS7], as without that I have no doubt that he would have been right in the battle for the final podium positions.
“It will be interesting to see what he can do tomorrow. These roads are as close as the FIA World Rally Championship gets to circuit racing – they’re wide, smooth and fast – and should hopefully suit him.”
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