Returning to the stages following an unfortunate retirement on yesterday’s opening speed test (SS2), Mikko Hirvonen climbed the standings. Currently holding 11th place, the Finn is now tantalisingly close to a points-paying finish.
Contested over the open roads of the Valle de Calamunchita, today’s terrain provided a much more civilised affair. Far removed from the narrow tracks of the mountains north of Villa Carlos Paz, the stages were fast and flowing, but that did not alter Evans’ approach.
In the M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen were regaining their rhythm after yesterday’s high-speed – and uncharacteristic – mistake. Using the day wisely, the Finn was able to assess various set-up options and build further confidence for future events.
Upping his pace significantly for the afternoon loop, Hirvonen looked at one behind the wheel of his Fiesta RS WRC once again. Fearless in the fog that blighted the second pass of ‘Amboy – Yacanto’ (SS9), the popular M-Sport driver even came close to securing a stage win – just 0.3 seconds adrift of the rally’s advantageously placed leader, Jari-Matti Latvala.
Mikko Hirvonen (11th) said:
“It was a bit tricky this morning. I didn’t find the best rhythm and it took a while to get back into the swing of things but this afternoon was a lot better. We made some small changes on the car – trying a few different things and doing a bit of testing – which I was really happy with.
“We were then able to set a really good time on SS9. I think we drove that stage really well and I hope that we can carry that speed forward to tomorrow. It’s going to be another tricky day, but let’s see if we can continue like this and score some points.”
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“We’ve seen a very solid day from Mikko [Hirvonen] – coming back strongly after yesterday’s disappointment. He’s had the opportunity to test some different settings with the car and, although he might not have seen a benefit this morning, he really came into his own this afternoon. We’re expecting some tricky conditions tomorrow, and it’s there where Mikko really thrives, so hopefully we’ll see him climb back into the top-ten.
“Finally, all credit to our mechanics and engineers. Both cars have performed faultlessly and considering the amount of damage that they had to repair on Mikko’s car, I think it’s fair to say that they have done another exceptional job.”