Thursday, June 21, 2012

WRC: Citroen’s Mikko Hirvonen Leads out the WRC Field at Rally New Zealand

Ken Block will be keeping his "Hoonigan Nation" updated via Instagram,
Twitter, Facebook, and any other social media platform that might launch over the
weekend. Photo Neil McDaid RWN/STOCK
Citroen’s Mikko Hirvonen has opted to run at the head of the WRC field on round seven of the FIA World Rally Championship, Brother Rally New Zealand. Mikko will be followed on the road by Ford's Petter Solberg and reigning WRC champ Sebastian Loeb rounding out the top three.
Running first on the road is a big gamble for Mikko but he feels that the conditions are right and he can gain an advantage over the cars following his line. “I had the chance to choose first and we will see tomorrow which one is the right way. I believe it will be damp and slippery in the morning and that will be more difficult for the drivers running behind because there has been lots of rain in the last couple of days. Maybe it will be getting better for Saturday when there will be drier conditions.” said Mikko. 

Ford is adapting a new strategy for Rally New Zealand by not electing a driver to fight for the win but rather letting both of their top dogs fight for the win. With Solberg slotted between the two Team Citroen drivers it will be interesting to see how he matches on similar road conditions. Solberg’s teammate,  Jari-Matti Latvala, has opted to start as far back in the pack as possible starting 13th.

Seb Loeb is already talking down a win in New Zealand, “It is not imperative but for sure when you can fight for the win you will try to do it, so I will see,” said Loeb. “For sure it will be a complicated rally with the weather and a lot of different things like tyre choice, so we will see. I will try to do my best. I think it’s quite important to have a good feeling with the car and then we will see.”
Are we seeing Loeb finally stepping aside and letting Citroen's # 2 driver Mikko Hirvonen go for it, or is he saving himself for X-Games?
American Ken Block has been listed by WRC.COM as one of the five reasons to get excited about Rally New Zealand. “The Gymkhana internet sensation has been absent from the WRC since Rally Guanajuato Mexico in early March. But he’s back for Brother Rally New Zealand and ready to put on a show for his legion of fans in his Monster World Rally Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC”.

Although Ken is planning to take a measured approach to Rally New Zealand, I am thinking he will find it tough to resist not going for it. The fast flowing stages on this event definitely suit Block's flat-out style, and with his starting position of ninth on the road, Block and co-driver Alex Gelsomino could be in a position for their best finish in the WRC.

“I’ve spent a fair amount of time in New Zealand and the fans there are such enthusiasts and show a lot of appreciation for what we do,” said Block. “You get a really warm reception every time you go there and the people are very courteous.”

By: Neil McDaid
Source: WRC.COM