It was a somewhat frustrating weekend for home hero Hirvonen.
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mikko Hirvonen and Elfyn Evans have completed Rally Finland in fifth and seventh places respectively. The two M-Sport drivers were amongst eight Ford Fiesta rally cars in the first 15 finishers – giving M-Sport’s range of award-winning machinery an impressive 53 per cent of the overall top-15.
It was a somewhat frustrating weekend for home hero Hirvonen. As one of the most specialised events in the FIA World Rally Championship, Finland demands perfection. The forests are quick to punish a lack of confidence and the Finn admitted that a hesitant run through the event’s preliminary stages cost him dearly.
Hope of a resurgent comeback was subsequently halted through the second pass of Jukojärvi (SS20) when a stray rock damaged the suspension components of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC.
Embarking on the event’s final three stages, the M-Sport man was keen to put on a show for the home crowd. Thoroughly enjoying the final day’s legendary speed-tests, the Finn continued to entertain the crowds; building on yesterday’s longest jump through Päijälä – 41 metres at 148 kilometres per hour – with more air time and sideways action.
In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Evans came to the end of the rally hungry for more. There is no greater thrill than powering a world rally car through Finland’s rollercoaster stages and the youngster is relishing the opportunity to return with his newly gained knowledge.
Progression was the name of the game for the young Welshman and after a somewhat shaky start whilst getting accustomed to the rally’s unique nature, Evans showcased some encouraging progression.
Growing in confidence as he better understood the characteristics of his Fiesta through the fast-paced stages, he became more comfortable which prompted some highly impressive split times.
Having only completed the full event behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta R2 in his previous encounters, the Welshman experienced the unforgiving stages through a completely different lens this weekend, and the knowledge gained will be invaluable to his future development.
Mikko Hirvonen (5th): “It’s been a bit up and down and I’m a bit disappointed as we were aiming to be able to fight for the podium. It wasn’t so bad at the start of the rally and on Friday I was really happy with the way we were driving and where we were fighting. But then we made a small mistake and when that happens and you start to hesitate like how I did on Saturday, you just lose so much time. You really can’t afford to do that around here.”
Elfyn Evans (7th): “Before this weekend I had only ever completed the full distance in an R2 car so to come here for the first time in a world rally car was a bit of an eye opener! There’s no comparison between the two. To have the opportunity to drive a car like this on these stages is absolutely incredible.
“This is such a unique event that there is an element of specialist pacenotes and specialist driving styles. Everything we’ve learnt this weekend will be very important for the future and I’m sure we’ll be a lot stronger when we come back as a result.”
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE: “Mikko [Hirvonen] wasn’t where he wanted to be this weekend, but it was an encouraging performance from Elfyn [Evans]. He showed some good progression and was very professional when he picked up a puncture on Saturday afternoon – ensuring that he got the car safely back to service. The experience he has gained here this weekend will be of huge benefit when he returns next year.”
M-Sport World Rally Team