It was a mixed day at Rally Finland for the BP Ford Abu Dhabi team yesterday as Jari-Matti Latvala led the event, but both Mikko Hirvonen and Sheikh Khalid al Qassimi crashed out of contention for points places. Latvala, whose previous best finish in his home rally was third last year, moved up from fourth overnight to take the lead on the seventh stage and build up an advantage of 10 seconds over Petter Solberg's second-placed Citroen after the 10th stage.
Sebastien Ogier is third in his Citroen, ahead of his teammate and championship leader Sebastien Loeb. Hirvonen, the pre-rally favourite after winning last year's event, had set the fastest times on stages two and three to lead by 4.9secs before it all went wrong for the Finn as he crashed in spectacular fashion as his car somersaulted off the road after he had carried too much speed into a corner.
"The car landed on the road but started to roll," said Hirvonen. "It rolled three or four times. It's the biggest accident I've had." It was the same story for al Qassimi, who was running in ninth place and in the championship points, before he went off the road and rolled his car on the sixth stage. "It was an exciting day up until this point and the roll was really unfortunate." said al Qassimi. "This is my fourth time competing in Finland, but the conditions can catch out even the most experienced driver."
Today's action entails eight stages, with the event finishing tomorrow afternoon. * Agencies