Hirvonen warms to The Italian Job with double victory for Ford
Ford's Mikko Hirvonen ended his rally season in victorious fashion today by sealing a double win at the Memorial Bettega Rally in Italy. The 29-year-old Finn powered his Ford Focus RS World Rally Car to victory in last night's floodlit sprint in Bologna, before returning this afternoon to win the main event in front of a 30,000 crowd.
Hirvonen, who finished runner-up in the FIA World Rally Championship this season, was in sparkling form to defeat challengers including former rally world champions Marcus Gronholm and Petter Solberg and Italian hero and nine-times motorcycling world champion, Valentino Rossi.
The 29-year-old Finn beat ex-Ford team-mate Gronholm in the semi-final of the sprint event over a mixed surface, purpose-built 1km circuit. He then defeated WRC rival Sebastien Ogier in the final.
It was the same story today. Hirvonen came safely through the qualifying round before beating Gronholm in the semi-final. He again lined up against Ogier in the final, defeating the Frenchman by three race wins to one.
"That was the perfect way to end my season," said Hirvonen. "I enjoy these fun events and it's great to compete against my WRC colleagues without the pressure that comes with a championship rally. However, whenever we climb into any race or rally car, we all get that competitive buzz so there was plenty of will to win from everyone out there over the last couple of days. Let's hope I have this winning feeling regularly in the WRC next year!"
Hirvonen's victory completed a successful start to the week. On Sunday evening he was named International Rally Driver of the Year at the prestigious Autosport Awards ceremony in London. On Friday, he and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen will collect their WRC runners-up trophies in Monaco.