Mikko Hirvonen leads Rally Australia at the end of a dramatic first full day of rallying which saw the Citroen duo of Sebastien Loeb and Sebastien Ogier both crash out in extremely slippery conditions.
Ogier began the day with a narrow 0.6 second lead over Loeb after two runs through the superspecial on Thursday evening to get the rally underway. Loeb was quickest through the first stage of the day, SS3 Shipmans, to move into the lead, two seconds ahead of his teammate.
However, on the following SS4 Brooklana Loeb rolled his car after taking a right-hander two quickly only a few kilometres into the stage. He blamed his error upon a lapse in concentration as he read a split time from the dashboard. Forced to retire, he handed Ogier the rally lead. At midday service the younger Frenchman had a lead of 9.1s over Hirvonen.
The drama continued on the first stage after lunch though, when Ogier ran wide on a left-hander, hitting a bank with the rear of his car and then spinning into a tree. With his radiator damaged he was forced to stop in the stage.
Hirvonen inherited the rally lead, 5.4s ahead of Ford teammate Jari-Matti Latvala. Hirvonen stretched his lead to 6.6s over the remaining two proper stages, before extending that to 7 seconds through the two superspecial runs that ended the day.
Petter Solberg is third in his privately-run Citroen, 44.3s off the lead after a high-speed spin and a trip into a field. Evgeny Novikov had been close behind Solberg before hitting a rock and retiring on SS7. This elevated M-Sport Stobart teammate Henning Solberg into fourth, but he is more than a minute and a half behind his brother. Another M-Sport Stobart driver Matthew Wilson is 36.2s behind Henning in fifth.
Khalid Al Qassimi is the last remaining World Rally Car in sixth in his Abu Dhabi Fiesta. Peter van Merksteijn Jr was running eighth in his Citroen before a double puncture, while Daniel Oliveira was forced out by a damaged radiator on his Mini. Ken Block left the road and struck a tree on the first stage of the day.
All this means PWRC leader Hayden Paddon is seventh overall, ahead of category rivals Michal Kosciuszko, Oleksandr Saliuk and Benito Guerra.
Top ten positions after SS8:
|1.||3||Mikko Hirvonen||Ford Abu Dhabi||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||1:17:11.2|
|2.||4||Jari-Matti Latvala||Ford Abu Dhabi||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+7.0|
|3.||11||Petter Solberg||PSWRT||Citroen DS3 WRC||+44.3|
|4.||15||Henning Solberg||M-Sport Stobart||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+2:26.9|
|5.||5||Matthew Wilson||M-Sport Stobart||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+3:03.1|
|6.||10||Khalid Al Qassimi||Abu Dhabi||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+4:47.3|
|7.||38||Hayden Paddon||Symtech||Subaru Impreza WRX STi||+5:19.7|
|8.||22||Michal Kosciuszko||Lotos||Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X||+6:39.9|
|9.||30||Oleksandr Saliuk||Mentos Ascania||Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX||+7:22.4|
|10.||39||Benito Guerra||GMA||Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X||+8:28.3|