Finland had a number of great story lines heading into the weekends action. Kimi Raikkonen made his WRC debut in an Abarth, Mikko Hirvonen looked to extend his points lead and move closer to a championship, Jari Matti Latvala looked to finish a race, and did we mention Kimi Raikkonen was making a debut?
Day 1 seen action go into full swing very quickly. Right out of the gate Mikko and Sebastian went on the attack and would not back down for the entire day. The battle would go to Hirvonen by a margin of four seconds. Sordo would finish third and Latvala would actually finish and would start the next day in fourth place. Petter Solberg would end the day in stage 2. The Norwegian landed weird off of a jump and punctured a tire. While trying to get the car over the finish line, he drove off course into a ditch. Petter was forced to withdrawal his machine and start day 2 under super rally rules.
Day 2 had high flying action and excellent racing at the top of the charts. Hirvonen had a small four second lead over Sebastian Loeb. Hirvonen exploded into a 32 seond lead over the Frenchman. Loeb suffered another disaster when he hit a pot hole that nearly swallowed his Citroen C4. Fortunately for Loeb he only suffered wheel damage. Sordo would continue to hold onto third throughout the day, while Jari Matti Latvala would fall ill to food poisoning and would finish fourth respectively. Things remained unchanged for the most part during day 2. However, a certain Finn driver would finally get his wings and it really came as a surprise to no one I would think. After a promising run for Kimi on day one, the Finn decided to up his pace during the next day’s stages. This proved to be his downfall because we know anytime Raikkonen kicks up the pace, he either sets blistering lap times or destroys the car. You guessed it, on the final stage of the day it ended. Running 15th place, Raikkonen came over a crest out of shape and hit a rock that flung his Abarth Grand Punto into a ditch in the middle of the forest. Crowds of folks came over and put the car back on the road, however the car was unable to continue and Kimiwould end his WRC debut with a set of wings.
A solid 32 second lead was in place for Ford and Mikko Hirvonen on day 3. All the Finn would have to do is stay out of trouble and keep the car on the stage. Jari Matti would jump Citroen number 2 Sordo and claim a podium position. This is truly a surprise due to the low level Latvala had been driving at for most of the year. The victory would be the third straight for Mikko and move him three points ahead of Sebastian Loeb with three rallies to go. It will be interesting to see if the Ford squad can keep Hirvonen out of trouble and secure the drivers title for the young Finn. The Constructor’s title is less likely to occur at this point. It is unfair for a driver like Mikko to be hampered by such a unreliable driver such as Latvala. If Ford want to be considered for world championships, then a better number two needs to be signed in the off season. This is most unfortunate because Malcom Wilson has resigned both drivers through at least next year. I wish I could loath around a top rally team and never have to support my teammate and then get resigned in the offseason. Time will tell but this weekend was a good result for Ford.
The next rally is the Repco Rally of Australia. That rally will take place from 4-6 of September and while Mikko cannot clinch next race, a good result here and more misfortune from Loeb and it may be all but over for the Frenchman’s reign as champion.