Mikko Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen made a solid start to their home event.
As Rally Finland got under way with the event’s first four stages, M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mikko Hirvonen is in contention for the podium places.
When the FIA World Rally Championship ventures to rallying’s spiritual home, an exciting and exhilarating fixture is always expected; and as torrential rain and high-speed winds battered the day’s opening speed tests the 2014 edition looks set to be no different.
Using their experience of the Finnish stages to full effect, Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen made a solid start to their home event – keeping their Fiesta in the fight and remaining on target to battle for the top-positions.
Setting a string of consistent stage times in the slippery conditions, the Finns currently hold fourth place overall. Refusing to let the gap to the leaders deter his enthusiasm, Hirvonen will be on full attack tomorrow as he chases the coveted podium.
In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Elfyn Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt were finding their feet on what is their first experience of the Finnish stages in the top-specification Fiesta.
The Welshman admitted that he may have been overly cautious during the pre-event reconnaissance – his notes slightly too slow for the fast-paced stages – but the conscientious youngster will be keen to make amends with some clear progression as the rally continues.
Mikko Hirvonen (4th): “The guys up front are going really fast and even when everything was perfect I couldn’t match that through the whole stage. But we are in the fight for the podium and that is where we wanted to be. We just need to go out tomorrow, fight hard, and make sure we do what we came here to do.”
Elfyn Evans (13th): “It hasn’t really been happening for us today. The notes are all on the safe side but to be fair we’ve found that they’re quite consistent and I’m learning to drive around it – I just need to be careful not to overdrive.
“It’s a little bit to do with the nature of the road. There are a lot of long sweeping corners but in a lot of places the grip is a lot better than I perceived it to be on the recce. It’s so fast and I’m braking where I should be flat which costs you so much time around here!
“We’ll go back to the videos tonight to try and rectify them as best we can and look forward to tomorrow.”
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE: “It’s going to be a big fight for the podium tomorrow. I think Sebastien [Ogier] and Jari-Matti [Latvala] are in a fight of their own, but the battle for that final podium place will be an intense one.
“Mikko [Hirvonen] is feeling confident and in a good position for tomorrow when the weather should not play as much of a factor. We all know that he wants to be on the podium here and I have no doubt that he will go out with that goal in mind.
“It’s been a tricky day for Elfyn [Evans] who was caught out by the conditions and the sheer speed of the stages in a world rally car. He’s learnt a lot today and he and Daniel [Barritt, co-driver] are confident that they can make some changes to the notes and improve tomorrow.”
M-Sport World Rally Team