Mikko Hirvonen and Elfyn Evans are locked in an intense battle for the final podium positions.
As the FIA World Rally Championship returned to pure Tarmac for the first time this year, M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mikko Hirvonen and Elfyn Evans are locked in an intense battle for the final podium positions – holding sixth and seventh places respectively.
Rallye Deutschland never fails to deliver a thrilling event, and with just over 15 seconds separating seventh-placed man Evans from a podium position, this year looks set to be no different.
Consistency was the name of the game for Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen. The two Finns are amongst the most experienced in the championship and they put that to good use as they traversed the twisting vineyard tracks and open country roads of the Rhineland.
This was my first ever day in a world rally car on proper Tarmac...
Despite an overshoot on the first test of the morning, the pairing were as determined as ever and had the better of their nearest rivals through the trickier speed tests.
With all to play for, Hirvonen’s Ford Fiesta RS WRC should not be discounted for a strong result and he will be keen to climb the leader board as the rally ventures to Baumholder and an encounter with the perilous ‘Hinkelsteins’ tomorrow.
But it was arguably Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt who were the talk of the service park. The Welshman has always felt as confident on asphalt as he does on gravel and that was clear to see as he made a flawless transition to sealed-surface rallying.
Demonstrating his most significant progression to date, he was able to continually challenge those with more experience and hinted that there is yet more speed to unlock this weekend.
Proving that he has the ability to be competitive on asphalt as well as gravel, Evans has made a highly impressive Tarmac debut with the Fiesta RS WRC.
Mikko Hirvonen (6th) said: “I’m happy with the way things have gone today. If you look at the positions, we’re maybe not exactly where we wanted to be but it is so close out there! It’s great to be in the fight and if we can continue to push tomorrow then I’m sure we can be in the fight for the podium.”
Elfyn Evans (7th) said: “I think it’s gone as well as we could have hoped today. This was my first ever day in a world rally car on proper Tarmac so I think to be where we are is as much as we could have expected. It’s been a little bit up and down and there are certainly places where we could have been better; but on the whole it’s not been bad at all and I’m really looking forward to seeing what we can do tomorrow."
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said: “It’s great to see Mikko [Hirvonen] with a smile on his face. He’s right in the fight for those final podium positions and he’s clearly relishing it. It’s fantastic to hear that fighting spirit back in his voice.
“As for Elfyn [Evans], I think this has been his best ever day in a world rally car. I’ve been mightily impressed by him today. He’s set some good times and some excellent split times. This is his first time in a world rally car on asphalt and he’s already challenging those with a lot more experience. A brilliant job from him and Dan [Barrit, co-driver] today.”
Additional M-Sport drivers
Dennis Kuipers (11th) said: “We had a bit of a slow start this morning, but the rhythm is coming back now and it’s getting better and better with each new kilometre. We were able to make some good improvements to the notes this afternoon and now I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”
Yuriy Protasov (14th) said: “I’m really happy to have finished my first full day with a world rally car. This car is so different to the [Ford Fiesta] RRC and [Ford Fiesta] R5 that I am used to – in every way – so it took a while to get up to speed. But we are learning so much and I can feel the pace getting faster and faster with each new stage.”
Pontus Tidemand, 2013 FIA Junior World Rally Champion (2nd in WRC 2) said: “It’s good to be back rallying in the WRC and I think it has been a really good day for us. This is our first time with a four-wheel-drive car on asphalt and I’ve been pleased with the pace we’ve been able to set. We’re in a good position at the moment, and I’m sure we can continue to progress as the weekend unfolds, but it’s important not to get too carried away and to continue to focus on our own event.”
M-Sport World Rally Team