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WRC Rally: Ford stays top after Sardinia thriller

05-20-2008 05:33 PM CET | Sports

Press release from: Castrol UK and Ireland

/ PR Agency: Dildizayn
Rallye Italy: Latvala

Rallye Italy: Latvala

Castrol-backed Ford drivers Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matta Latvala finished second and third respectively in a thrilling Rallye d’Italia after harrying Citroen-rival Sebastien Loeb all the way to the flag in Sardinia.

The result saw the Castrol-Ford Abu Dhabi team and Hirvonen maintain their WRC lead in both championships on what was the first in a run of three European gravel events in just four weeks.

Hirvonen ended the opening day in fourth spot while Latvala was seventh, despite setting a blistering time on the first stage to lead by seven seconds. However a damaged tyre on the second stage forced him into a spectacular fight back from 14th to seventh.

"It was my mistake," said Latvala. "At a downhill right bend about 18km after the start I hit a bank and the tyre came away from the rim."

With better road positions on Saturday Latvala was the form man, taking victory on all six stages and slashing a minute from rally leader Loeb. The surge also astonishingly left the Finn tied with Hirvonen on exactly the same time, but Latvala ran ahead of his team-mate by dint of his win on the event’s opening stage.

"I looked at the data from my car last night and decided not to make any changes to the set-up," said a confident Hirvonen. "My Friday road position was a bigger issue than we originally thought, but it was better today.”

Sunday’s opening stage saw Hirvonen pounce to chop a third from Loeb’s lead but the Frenchman took some of that time back on the very next test. Winning the third stage of the day kept Latvala in contention for second while Hirvonen again cut Loeb’s lead to 16 seconds.

Victory on the penultimate stage left Hirvonen just 12.9s behind Loeb but with just the superspecial at Cala di Volpe to go, the result was no longer in doubt. Loeb took his 40th WRC win while Ford maintained championship advantage.

BP Ford Abu Dhabi team director Malcolm Wilson said: “Our guys were stunning here. Mikko pushed Seb all the way on Sunday but was conscious of the championship position. Jari-Matti was fastest on every stage on Saturday and I'm not sure anyone has taken that kind of time out of Loeb in a single day when he was fighting for victory. We’re still at the head of the points for both championships and with Greece and Turkey coming up fast it will be an important few weeks for us.”

The next event is the Acropolis Rally from May 29.

Rallye d'Italia top six finishers

* 1. Loeb/Elena (Citroen)
* 2. Hirvonen/Lehtinen (Ford)
* 3. Latvala/Antilla (Ford)
* 4. Galli/Bernacchini (Ford)
* 5. Sordo/Marti (Citroen)
* 6. Atkinson/ Prevot (Subaru)

Team News : Ford stars head for Moscow

Castrol-Ford drivers Mikko Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen will fly from Sardinia to Moscow to attend the Champions League football final between Manchester United and Chelsea in Moscow on Wednesday. The Finns will be able to enjoy the match without partisan feelings as both are fans of beaten semi-finalists Liverpool. Ford is a long-time major sponsor of the Champions League and the rally duo will be attending as guests of Ford of Europe.

Race News: Loeb praises Hirvonen’s approach

Reigning FIA World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb has praised Castrol-Ford’s Mikko Hirvonen for his approach to this season’s championship. ‘Mikko has shown that the way to be successful is to be consistent and I need to be more like him,’ said the Frenchman. Hirvonen’s victory in Jordan took him to the head of the points table after never finishing lower than fifth on any of the previous four events.

For more information on the Castrol-sponsored Ford WRC team please visit the Racing and Sponsorship section of our homepage:

http://www.castrol.com/castrol/subsection.do?categoryId=9014774&contentId=7027798

For more information on Castrol's sponsorship activities related to sports please visit:

http://www.castrol.com/castrol/genericsection.do?categoryId=3208&contentId=7034605

http://www.castrolindex.com

Motor Oil and Lubricants Castrol UK and Ireland
Castrol UK Ltd, Wakefield House, Pipers Way, Swindon
SN3 1RE United Kingdom
http://www.castrol.co.uk
Press contact: Caroline Topping
Phone: +44 (1793) 452781
eMail: Caroline.topping@uk.bp.com

Castrol is the world's leading specialist provider of lubricant products. Most people know Castrol oil for vehicles such as car oil, engine oil and synthetic oil as well as motorcycle oil. But there's not just Castrol motor oil, we also produce lubricants for vehicles in transport and construction industries, such as heavy goods vehicles, buses and earth moving machinery. Castrol UK feature the brands EDGE, Magnatec, GTX, SLX Professional, Elixion, Enduron and Tection among others.

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