Rally Spanje 2008 03-05 oktober
helps Hirvonen to podium place in Spain:
BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team finished
third and fourth on Rally de España today after three days of tough
competition in the hills above Spain's Costa Daurada coast. Mikko
Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen claimed the final podium place, their ninth
in 12 rallies this season, in a Ford Focus RS World Rally Car while
team-mates François Duval and Patrick Pivato were fourth in a similar
car after an incident-free weekend on the asphalt roads of Catalonia.
The two Ford pairings held third and fourth from Friday's opening
kilometre, with Duval holding the upper hand over 28-year-old Hirvonen.
However, the 27-year-old Belgian, drafted into the Ford line-up for his
asphalt expertise for the first time since 2004, allowed Hirvonen to
move ahead on today's final leg to boost his challenge for the drivers'
crown in the FIA World Rally Championship. The Finn retains second in
the standings, 12 points from the lead with three of the 15 rounds
remaining. Reigning champion Ford continues to hold second in the
This is the fastest sealed surface rally of the championship, the smooth
asphalt and flowing bends likened to a race circuit by drivers. However,
yesterday's second leg contained new sections of road which were tighter
and twistier than the traditional speed tests. Some parts were also
slippery as drivers cut corners and dragged stones and dirt on to the
road surface. Competitors tackled 18 special stages covering 353.62km in
the Tarragona region, south-west of Barcelona.
Duval started today's final leg, covering six tests and 93.88km, with a
13.2sec advantage over Hirvonen. He was fastest over the opening test
and increased the margin to 20.1sec by the mid-leg service at the rally
base in Salou. As he eased off during the second pass over the roads,
Hirvonen came to the fore and won the final three stages to head his
colleague by 8.3sec at the finish.
"This was a good weekend for me and I'm happy to be back in the Ford
team," said Duval. "I made no mistakes and suffered no punctures and
this has given me real confidence for next weekend's rally in Corsica.
This isn't my favourite asphalt event because the surface is too pure
and too smooth, like driving on a motorway at times. However, I found a
good set-up for my Focus, my pace was consistent and I enjoyed the
tougher and more slippery roads yesterday.
Hirvonen was frustrated at being unable to find a good rhythm until
yesterday afternoon and paid tribute to Duval. "This wasn't how I wanted
to take a podium and I really have to thank François. He was a true team
player and helped me to score an extra point. Winning the drivers'
championship will be very difficult now but it isn't out of the question
so I will keep trying. I finally found a good rhythm yesterday afternoon
and I've learned a lot about driving on this surface this weekend.
With no pressure on the BP Ford Abu Dhabi drivers from behind, Hirvonen
tested Pirelli's soft compound PZero tyre this morning to gather data
for next weekend's rally. "We wanted to know how the soft tyres would
work in these conditions, even though we knew it wasn't the compound we
would have chosen in normal circumstances, and I hope that information
will pay off in Corsica," he added.
Abu Dhabi's Khalid Al Qassimi and Michael Orr finished 21st in their
Focus RS WRC. They retired after the final stage of the first leg with
differential problems following a spin into a ditch and restarted under
SupeRally rules the next day in 42nd. "The weather made it easier for us,"
said Al Qassimi. "I changed my settings a lot and it was only on the
last three or four stages that I was really happy and able to step up my
commitment. I've learned how to drive on asphalt and have more
BP Ford Abu Dhabi team director Malcolm Wilson said the team delivered a
strong performance after a difficult first day. "François' performance
proved it was the right decision to bring him into the team. He did a
great job to support Mikko in his quest to be drivers' champion. Now our
attentions turn to Corsica where we feel the nature of the stages will
better suit our cars and drivers," he added.
Mark Deans, Ford of Europe's motorsport director, said: "Francois came
into the team to help our championship aspirations. We've greatly
appreciated his efforts in fine-tuning the set-up of the Focus on
asphalt and, of course, his spirit in assisting Mikko's title challenge
this morning. I hope his professionalism can be rewarded further in
Corsica next weekend."
News from our Rivals
Sébastien Loeb (Citroen) led from start to finish to claim his 45th
world rally victory, heading team-mate Dani Sordo by 24.9sec. Behind
Hirvonen and Duval, Petter Solberg (Subaru) claimed fifth after a close
fight with Urmo Aava (Citroen). Aava moved ahead with two stages
remaining but crashed on the penultimate test, breaking his car's
suspension. Chris Atkinson (Subaru) and Stobart driver Jari-Matti
Latvala (Ford) battled each other all rally, the Finn moving ahead with
two stages remaining. He held off Atkinson's fightback to take sixth by
just 1.1sec. Andreas Mikkelsen (Ford) claimed the final drivers' point
while ninth for Stobart driver Matthew Wilson (Ford) took the final
There is no time for teams to rest as the BP Ford Abu Dhabi squad
tomorrow crosses the Mediterranean to Corsica for next weekend's Rallye
de France (9 - 12 October). The final all-asphalt event of the season,
and round 13 of the 15-rally championship, is based in Ajaccio.
1. S Loeb/D ElenaFRA Citroen C4 3hr 21min 17.4sec
2. D Sordo/M MartiESP Citroen C4 3hr 21min 42.3sec
3. M Hirvonen/J LehtinenFIN Ford Focus RS 3hr 22min 19.9sec
4. F Duval/P PivatoBEL Ford Focus RS 3hr 22min 28.2sec
5. P Solberg/P MillsNOR Subaru Impreza 3hr 24min 44.8sec
6. J-M Latvala/M AnttilaFIN Ford Focus RS 3hr 25min 21.2sec
7. C Atkinson/S Prévot AUS Subaru Impreza 3hr 25min 22.3sec
8. A Mikkelsen/O FloeneNOR Ford Focus RS 3hr 26min 37.0sec
9. M Wilson/S MartinGBR Ford Focus RS 3hr 29min 00.6sec
10 B Tirabassi/F Gordon FRA Subaru Impreza 3hr 30min 22.4sec
03-10-2008 - Duval edges out Hirvonen to lie
third after opening day in Spain
BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team enjoyed a solid start to Rally de
España to hold third and fourth places following today's opening leg.
François Duval and Patrick Pivato, returning to the official Ford
line-up for the first time since 2004, lie third in a Focus RS World
Rally Car, just 2.8sec ahead of team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo
Lehtinen. The equally-matched Ford duo traded places throughout the day
and tonight's gap is the widest it has been all day.
Late summer holidaymakers and locals alike packed the seafront in the
bustling Costa Daurada resort of Salou, south of Barcelona, last night
for the start ceremony of this 12th round of the FIA World Rally
Championship. The action began in earnest this morning as competitors
tackled two identical loops of three flowing asphalt speed tests
covering 131.76km in the Tarragona region.
Glorious sunshine bathed the hills north of Salou. While temperatures
reached 19ºC on the coast, they were a chilly 8ºC when the opening
special stage blasted into action this morning, and drivers initially
found it hard to generate heat in their hard compound Pirelli tyres.
Combined with dirt dragged onto the roads by drivers cutting corners to
shave tenths of a second from their times, the smooth asphalt, likened
to a race circuit in its characteristics, was slippery as grip was often
hard to find.
Duval and Hirvonen swapped places on each test during the morning loop,
the 27-year-old Belgian returning to the Salou service park just 2.2sec
ahead of Hirvonen. While Duval was happy with his progress, 28-year-old
Hirvonen was frustrated at his pace and softened his suspension spring
settings for the afternoon loop to try to improve his feeling and
increase his speed. Hirvonen was tied for third with Duval after the
penultimate stage but Duval had the edge again on the final test.
Hirvonen was happier this afternoon after the changes gave him a more
comfortable feeling. "The gap to the leaders was quite large after the
first loop," he said. "I didn't feel confident with the car and didn't
push as much as I knew I could so I talked with my engineers to see how
we could find more speed. We changed to softer suspension springs,
closer to the set-up I had for Rallye Deutschland in August. I prefer a
softer set-up with more grip, that's my natural feeling, so I had more
confidence and my times were closer to the leaders. It's not possible to
make big changes to the car because then I would end up compromising in
"I had a good battle with François, and I'm sure it will be the same
tomorrow, but I can't say I enjoyed the day. The morning was
disappointing which I didn't expect. After the test in Spain last week I
felt excited as everything felt good and I thought I'd made a good step
in the right direction. I was happier this afternoon and I hope we can
do some magic tonight," he added.
BP Ford Abu Dhabi team director Malcolm Wilson was happy with third and
fourth positions. "I'm surprised at the size of the gap that the leading
two cars opened during the first three stages. However, we made some
changes to Mikko's car at service which resulted in him feeling more
confident this afternoon, and both drivers are in strong positions for
the second leg," he added.
News from our Rivals
Sébastien Loeb (Citroen) controlled the day by winning all six stages to
build a 15.8sec lead over team-mate Dani Sordo, who was second fastest
on each stage. Behind the Ford duo, there was little movement on the
leaderboard all day. Petter Solberg (Subaru) holds fifth ahead of Urmo
Aava (Citroen) while Norway's Andreas Mikkelsen (Ford) lies seventh,
having been fifth earlier in the leg. Stobart driver Jari-Matti Latvala
(Ford) rounds off the top eight. Toni Gardemeister (Suzuki) spun on the
opening stage before dropping off the top 10 leaderboard when he lost
two minutes with a puncture in the penultimate test. Team-mate
Per-Gunnar Andersson (Suzuki) retired on the second stage after crashing
into a ditch.
The second leg takes drivers north-west of Salou for two identical
clockwise loops of three tests covering 127.98km, split by a return to
the town for service. The opening stage of each loop is the monster
38.27km El Priorat / La Ribera d'Ebre, the longest of the rally.
Competitors leave Salou at 07.30 and return for the final overnight halt
Leaderboard after Day 1
1. S Loeb/D Elena FRA Citroen C4 1hr 10min 11.5sec
2. D Sordo/M Marti ESP Citroen C4 1hr 10min 27.3sec
3. F Duval/P Pivato BEL Ford Focus RS 1hr 10min 52.8sec
4. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen FIN Ford Focus RS 1hr 10min 55.6sec
5. P Solberg/P Mills NOR Subaru Impreza 1hr 11min 59.0sec
6. U Aava/K Sikk EST Citroen C4 1hr 12min 12.7sec
7. J-M Latvala/M Anttila FIN Ford Focus RS 1hr 12min 15.9sec
8. C Atkinson/S Prévot AUS Subaru Impreza 1hr 12min 24.9sec
9. A Mikkelsen/O Floene NOR Ford Focus RS 1hr 12min 36.4sec
10 M Wilson/S Martin GBR Ford Focus RS 1hr 13min 53.6sec
Strengthened Ford squad
prepares hard for Spanish encounter
After a five-week break from competition, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally
Team returns to action in Spain next week for the first of two
Mediterranean asphalt events on consecutive weekends that could go a
long way towards deciding the 2008 FIA World Rally Championship titles.
The team has prepared meticulously for Rally de España (2 - 5 October)
and the subsequent Rallye de France in Corsica with back-to-back tests
in both locations as the campaign enters its decisive phase.
The reigning manufacturers' world champion has also strengthened its
driver line-up for the final sealed surface events of the season.
Finland's Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen, lying second in the drivers'
standings, will be joined by acknowledged asphalt experts François Duval
and Patrick Pivato in the record-breaking Focus RS World Rally Car. They
will replace Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila, who will rejoin the
squad for the final two rallies of the year in Japan and Britain.
This 12th round of the 15-rally championship returns for a fourth time
to Salou, on the Costa Daurada coast, south-west of Barcelona. The
sweeping roads of the Tarragona region are fast and flowing and can be
compared to a race circuit in their characteristics. The asphalt is
smooth but often abrasive, and can quickly become slippery as drivers
cut across the open corners to shave tenths of a second from their
special stage times and drag stones and dirt onto the surface.
The roads will become especially slippery for the second pass of stages
in the afternoon after the whole entry has already tackled the morning
speed tests. It places huge importance on the work of drivers' safety
crews, who pass through the stages ahead of competitors. They note
sections of road where conditions have changed and relay the information
to co-drivers who modify their pace notes accordingly before starting
Hirvonen claimed his first WRC podium in Spain
in 2005 in a privately-entered Focus RS WRC, a result that 'started
things moving in my career'. "The rally seems to be faster and faster
each year. The stages are smooth and the organisers seem to improve the
roads every time we come. It's like driving on a race track and it's
crucial to find the correct braking point and the right line through
bends. We're second in both the manufacturers' and drivers' points so I
need to try to beat Sébastien Loeb. That's going to be very difficult
and there's no room for mistakes, everything has to be perfect," he said.
"This is the first time here with Pirelli's new asphalt tyres so I will
try to be very precise with my pace notes during the recce. I need to
make sure that if I note a corner that can be cut, there is nothing on
the verge that can break the tyre. Last year organisers placed barrels
and bales on the inside of some corners to prevent drivers taking so
many big cuts," added 27-year-old Hirvonen, who has finished each of his
five starts in Spain.
* As part of the sport's new regulations, BP Ford Abu Dhabi will have
just one tyre pattern from Pirelli. The PZero asphalt tyre will be
available in both hard and soft compound but there will be no other
option for specific dry or wet weather rubber. Teams are not allowed to
hand-carve additional cuts into the rubber in the event of heavy rain
and each car can carry two spares.
* Seven other Focus RS cars will start. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka
Anttila and Matthew Wilson / Scott Martin are nominated by the Stobart
VK M-Sport squad while Federico Villagra / Jorge Perez Companc and
Henning Solberg / Cato Menkerud will drive for the Munchi's Ford team.
Other privately-entered cars will be driven by Andreas Mikkelsen / Ola
Floene, Peter Van Merksteijn / Erwin Berkhof and Peter Van Merksteijn Jr
/ Eddy Chevaillier. Six Fiesta ST cars are also entered for what is the
penultimate round of the Fiesta SportingTrophy International.
* The team has completed two asphalt tests in the last week in
preparation for the two asphalt events in Spain and Corsica. A three-day
test in Corsica ended on Monday, each driver spending one-and-a-half
days behind the wheel to concentrate on tyre work and car set-up. Duval,
who tested first, covered more than 300km. This was followed by another
three-day test which ends in Spain today. Duval again took the wheel
first, with Hirvonen taking over for the final day-and-a-half.
The structure is broadly the same as in 2007, although organisers have
introduced two new stages and changed several more. The rally is again
based at Salou's PortAventura theme park and all but one of the stages
are in the Tarragona region, an hour's drive from Barcelona. Each day
comprises two passes over a different loop of three stages. After
Thursday evening's start ceremony on the seafront, Friday's opening leg
is the longest of the rally with 131.76km of competition. Saturday's
second day north-west of Salou includes two new tests and the monster
38.27km El Priorat - La Ribera d'Ebre, the longest of the event. The
final leg west of the town uses three stages unchanged from last year
before the finish in Salou at 15.07. The 18 stages cover 353.62km in a
route of 1313.99km.
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