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Fords back in control of Rally NZ


Ford's Mikko Hirvonen leads Rally NZ after the first two stages of Leg Three and Citroen's Sebastien Loeb has dropped to fourth after spinning in the day's first test.

Ford is back in control of Repco Rally New Zealand, its Focus RS cars running first and second after the first two stages of the final day.

Mikko Hirvonen, who has led most of the rally, is back in the lead, 7.1 seconds ahead of teammate and overnight rally leader, Jari-Matti Latvala.

Latvala has been hindered by running first on the road, especially on the first section of the crucial Whaanga Coast test where seasoned rally observers say the gravel was thicker than they’ve seen on any stage so far in this year’s rally.

Sebastien Loeb (Citroen C4 RS) runs fourth, slowed by a spin in this morning’s first stage, Te Hutewai 1. Loeb also dropped 1.2 seconds in Whaanga Coast and is now 17.6 seconds adrift of Hirvonen.

Loeb’s Citroen works teammate, Dani Sordo is third, 8.7 seconds ahead of the world champion.

To retain his points margin in the championship, Loeb needs to finish the rally ahead of Hirvonen.

Henning Solberg won the day’s first stage, from Matthew Wilson (Ford) and Chris Atkinson (Subaru Impreza WRC 2008).

Petter Solberg, who has struggled for grip all rally, has finally hit his straps in the second works Impreza, finishing fourth in Te Hutewai and third in Whaanga Coast.

His showing back a theory doing the rounds that Subaru currently struggles on the first two days of world championship rallies and finds the right set-up on the final day.

Kiwi Emma Gilmour (Subaru WRX STi) has been in more confident mood this weekend, and was second fastest Group N driver in Te Hutewai behind Production World Rally Championship regular, Juho Hanninen (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9).

It’s the first time this rally that a Kiwi has gone faster than the ultra-quick Richard Mason (WRX STi) who ran away with the NZ Championship section of the event, winning it by three minutes from new champion Hayden Paddon (Evo 9).

Mason is also leading the Group N category overall, and is out to strike the treble.

He’s already got the first leg, the NZ championship round win and now wants to be first New Zealand finisher and to be the first Group N driver home, ahead of all of the PWRC drivers.

More from Rally NZ as the day progresses.

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