It was a frustrating morning for home hero Mikko Hirvonen.
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mikko Hirvonen and Elfyn Evans finished a challenging third day of competition at Rally Finland in fifth and eighth places respectively.
It was a frustrating morning for home hero Hirvonen. As one of the fastest and most technical events in the FIA World Rally Championship, Finland demands commitment. Any hesitation and the fast-paced stages will punish your time; and he admitted that a somewhat uncertain run through the morning’s opening loop had hampered his performance.
But there are few more determined drivers in the service park and the Finn was resolute on making amends in front of his adoring fans. Heading out for the afternoon loop, he was eager to put his knowledge of the stages to good use. Unfortunately it was not to be.
Hitting a stray rock in the middle of a rut four kilometres into the second pass of Jukojärvi (SS20), the M-Sport man damaged the damper of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Haemorrhaging time on the rougher sections of the three remaining stages, a potential charge was halted and Hirvonen had to settle for fifth position ahead of tomorrow’s final day.
In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt were continuing to grow in both confidence and performance.
Focused on understanding the way in which a world rally car reacts to the Finnish terrain, the pairing concentrated on improving their driving style as opposed to adopting the more risky strategy demanded in pursuit of the top-times.
Thoroughly enjoying his first experience of Finland’s legendary stages with the power and performance of M-Sport’s top-specification Fiesta, the Welshman was in his element. For a driver, there is no greater thrill than powering through the endless crests and ‘yumps’ at full speed and Evans is anticipating future outings when he will have equipped himself with the knowledge and experience to challenge at the head of the field.
Mikko Hirvonen (5th): "Today wasn’t what I was hoping and expecting. I really wanted to be in the fight for fourth this morning but I struggled to keep up with the other guys. The car was sliding around too much and I just didn’t have the confidence to get the times that I needed.
“Then this afternoon I hit a rock about four kilometres into the Jukojärvi stage [SS20] which damaged the damper and it was difficult after that.
“There’s still one day to go, and in Finland it is never over until it’s over. Tomorrow is a new day.”
Elfyn Evans (8th): “This morning was really positive with some more good progress but on SS20 we hit a big hole and got a puncture. From there on it was simply a case of getting the car back safely as it was really rough out there and we didn’t have a second spare.
“It’s been a big eye opener coming here in a world rally car for the first time but I think the progression has been good – yesterday and this morning especially. It would have been nice to have continued that this afternoon but we didn’t feel we were in the strongest position so decided against it.
“It’s been fantastic fun when things have been going right and I almost wish there were an extra couple of stages tomorrow! We’ll be a lot better off for the future after the learning process this year and I can’t wait to be back when we’ll be in a strong position to really push.”
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE: “Mikko [Hirvonen] is obviously a bit disappointed with the way things went today. He was in a great battle for fourth place but he struggled to match the pace this morning. He made some changes during service and was ready to push but unfortunately he hit a rock which damaged the front-right suspension. Fortunately he didn’t lose too much time as a result and having made some more changes this evening I hope we can see some good times from him tomorrow.
“It’s fair to say that Elfyn [Evans] is really enjoying driving a world rally car around these roads! He made some really encouraging progress this morning but having picked up a puncture on the first stage of the afternoon – and having only had one spare – he took the sensible decision to make it safely back to service. Hopefully we’ll see some further improvements tomorrow.”
M-Sport World Rally Team