x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Hirvonen to look for help from Latvala

Malcom Wilson, Abu Dhabi Ford's team boss, says Jari-Matti Latvala may have to help out teammate Mikko Hirvonen again in order to get a better finish for the championship.

Mikko Hirvonen, pictured, will be looking for help from their Abu Dhabi Ford teammate, Jari-Matti Latvala.p
Mikko Hirvonen, pictured, will be looking for help from their Abu Dhabi Ford teammate, Jari-Matti Latvala.p

Malcolm Wilson has acknowledged that the Abu Dhabi Ford team are likely to have to implement team orders for the second successive event as Rallye de France reaches a climax on Sunday.

Jari-Matti Latvala ceded the lead to Mikko Hirvonen during Rally Australia last month to help his Finnish teammate's championship challenge.

Latvala and Hirvonen are fourth and fifth going into Sunday's final leg of Rallye de France, and Latvala is again set to slow up to allow Hirvonen to gain an extra couple of points, which would see him close in on Sebastien Loeb, the championship leader.

Latvala is 1min, 36.4secs behind Sebastien Ogier, the Citroen driver, who leads the event, with Hirvonen 1.24.6 adrift.

With Latvala unlikely to catch the top three in today's six stages, he will almost certainly slow down so Hirvonen can pick up 12 points for fourth rather than 10 for fifth.

"Jari-Matti has no chance for the championship so we need to give Mikko the best possible opportunity instead," said Wilson, the Ford team director. "It could be game on for the final two rallies and with Sebastien [Ogier] coming into the mix, it's going to be a great climax for the end of the season and great for the sport."

Hirvonen went into the rally trailing Loeb by 15 points. But the Citroen driver retired during yesterday's first leg with an engine problem and he will not score any points in the event.

Fourth place would see Hirvonen close to within three, and that could be cut even more if he sets the best time in the final power stage, where three points are given to the fastest driver, two for second and one for the third quickest.

Ogier, who leads by 9.5 seconds over Dani Sordo's Mini, will also move into championship contention if he wins the event.

Victory would guarantee Ogier moves to within four points of Loeb, his teammate, with bonus power stage points possibly to come.

Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi continued his steady progress in the rally, moving up two places to finish the second leg in 14th place. And while the Emirati acknowledged before the event that tarmac is his least favourite surface, but the 39-year-old driver battled hard, and starts today 11.17.4 off the pace.