HIRVONEN AND FORD FIESTA S2000 DOMINATE MONTE CARLO RALLY TO CLAIM DEBUT WIN

23 January 2010 - Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen today won the legendary Monte Carlo Rally in the new M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000 rally car after leading from start to finish on its competitive debut.

Ford's official FIA World Rally Championship team drivers mastered treacherous winter conditions in the mountains of southern France to reach the finish at Monaco's famous harbour with a 1min 51.4sec advantage.

The Fiesta S2000 has been developed by Ford's rally partner, M-Sport, and the five-day Monte Carlo Rally offered the toughest of debuts. However, the car never missed a beat over 405.01km of competition, to provide a perfect start to the 2010 campaign for Hirvonen and Lehtinen.

The expertise of the Finns, runners-up in the 2009 world championship, proved invaluable behind the wheel of the exciting new Fiesta S2000. The rally also provided them with an ideal warm-up for the forthcoming WRC season, which begins in Sweden next month.

The Monte Carlo Rally was the opening round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC), for which M-Sport is a registered contender, and delighted company boss Malcolm Wilson watched live television coverage of the closing kilometres in the service park as Hirvonen safely guided the Fiesta S2000 to victory.

Snow and ice littered the mountain roads in the Ardèche and Alpes-Maritimes regions and grip levels constantly changed in the slippery conditions. However, Pirelli's tyres were a match for the weather and Hirvonen didn't make a single mistake over the 15 speed tests.

"The Monte Carlo Rally is one of the world's great rallies and it's a big thrill to win here," said 29-year-old Hirvonen. "It was a long, hard event and the conditions made the challenge even tougher. This car is brand new to competition but everything worked perfectly from the first kilometre. That's a tribute to the whole team, and particularly the people who put in so much effort over the last two weeks.

"To start the season with a win is a big confidence boost. I enjoy the winning feeling and I want to carry on like this when the WRC starts next month in Sweden," added Hirvonen.

M-Sport managing director Wilson said: "It's a dream debut for our new Fiesta S2000. We led from the first stage to the last and didn't experience a single problem, which is hugely encouraging for a new car. Mikko drove at exactly the pace he needed to win and his feedback will be crucial in our further development of the Fiesta.

"I would also like to thank the team at M-Sport, which has put so much effort and commitment into turning this car from a blank sheet of paper into a Monte Carlo Rally winner in just nine months," added Wilson.

Gerard Quinn, Ford of Europe's motorsport chief, said: "I'm delighted to see the Ford Fiesta S2000 winning such a prestigious event as the Monte Carlo Rally. The fact the car won its debut rally is a testament to the continued strong relationship between Ford and M-Sport and the companies share great technical expertise in developing rally cars. The strength and reliability so evident in the Fiesta road car have provided the perfect base from which to develop the Fiesta S2000."

-source: ford