It was very much game on between Loeb and Hirvonen after the first two stages of this long second day of Rally Finland. After setting a blistering time on Jukojärvi, the Finn narrowed the gap to the Frenchman to just 4.4s.
After setting the fastest time on SS4 (Urria), just three hundredths ahead of his team-mate, Sébastien Loeb had no answer for Mikko Hirvonen’s pace on the next stage. “We made a few changes to the set-up and I had a good rhythm on this stage,” said Mikko with a broad smile at the Jukojärvi stop control (SS5).
Sébastien Loeb, who had monitored the splits of his stable-mate throughout the stage, was therefore not surprised to lose a few seconds: “I know that Mikko is very quick here and that he wasn’t pushing at 100% yesterday. I think the rest of the day promises to be interesting!”
Still scrapping it out with Mads Østberg for fifth place, Thierry Neuville now lies sixth: “The car is perfect and I think my driving is pretty clean. I’m just going to have to push a bit harder if I want to avoid dropping back.”
Hit by intercom problems on SS4, Chris Atkinson also lost time on the next stage: “The radio was working again, but my pace wasn’t good enough.” The Australian is now eighth, 39s behind Sébastien Loeb.