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Hirvonen grabs early lead in the Rally of Portugal

Latest update : 2009-04-04

At the end of day one in the Rally of Portugal, Mikko Hirvonen leads the race with defending five-time champion Sébastien Loeb down in third. Former champion Marcus Gronholm marked an impressive return after 18 months to end in fourth.

AFP - Ford driver Mikko Hirvonen opened up a 15-second lead in the Rally of Portugal on Friday while former double world champion Marcus Gronholm marked his return after 18 months away with an impressive fourth place showing.
  
Hirvonen grabbed the lead in the afternoon and never relinquished it as he kept the Citroens of Dani Sordo and defending five-time champion Sebastien Loeb behind him.
  
Subaru Impreza driver Gronholm, the 2000 and 2002 world champion is fourth, 7.9sec behind Loeb with Petter Solberg rounding off the top five places in his privately entered Citroen Xsara WRC.
  
"I'm 18 seconds ahead of Seb, but that certainly is not enough," said Hirvonen. "But I'm glad to have that gap as I will be first on the road on Saturday."
  
Sordo had led the race up to the fifth stage but then made a mistake to allow Hirvonen to squeeze past.
  
The Spaniard began that crucial stage with a 3.2sec lead, but dropped to third after overshooting a junction 800metres from the start just as Loeb had done when the stage was run earlier in the day.
  
Gronholm had moved briefly into second place following Sordo’s mistake.
  
The Finn said he wouldn’t be trying to manipulate his road position for Saturday.
  
"I’ll just drive my own rally - I don’t like tactics," said the 41-year-old. "Mikko’s going well, but who knows what will happen tomorrow.
  
"Fourth place is not bad. We had a little unlucky with the pace notes at the start but, little by little, we found our rhythm and went well."

Date created : 2009-04-03

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