Hirvonen on verge of victory


Mikko Hirvonen just has to complete Sunday morning's two stages to secure his maiden victory for Citroen in the World Rally Championship, having maintained a comfortable lead cushion through leg two.

The Finn leads Evgeny Novikov by 1m28s ahead of leg three's double run through the eight kilometres of Gallura.

M-Sport team-mates Novikov and Ott Tanak remain on course for the remaining podium spots.

The young duo found a sensible rhythm to ensure they kept focus despite just having to cruise through the stages and nurse large gaps.

Provided they get through the brief leg three without drama, Novikov will equal his career-best World Rally Championship result with second and Tanak will claim a maiden top-class podium.

Mads Ostberg was Saturday's star performer. Four stage wins through the day allowed him to recover from seventh to fourth following Friday's driveshaft problems. The Adapta Ford driver admitted it was tempting to keep charging, but with Tanak a minute and a half ahead, he played it safe once up to fourth and eased his pace.

Chris Atkinson tried his utmost to hold Ostberg at bay but to no avail, and then felt a car problem developing on the day's final stage.

That allowed Sebastien Ogier to get back ahead of the Australian and into fifth overall in his Super 2000 Skoda, which had started to slip backwards. Ogier's team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen is still seventh.

Of the frontrunners back under Rally 2, Jari-Matti Latvala has been quickest but will be hard-pressed to break into the top 15 given the weight of his penalties.

However, his Ford team-mate Petter Solberg has managed to get back to ninth.

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