Mikko Hirvonen recorded the best WRC result of his young career today by finishing fourth on Rally Argentina. The 23-year-old Finnish star pushed hard all day in his Subaru Impreza WRC2004, regularly beating the times of other far more experienced...
Mikko Hirvonen recorded the best WRC result of his young career today by finishing fourth on Rally Argentina. The 23-year-old Finnish star pushed hard all day in his Subaru Impreza WRC2004, regularly beating the times of other far more experienced drivers. Setting top-three times on all of the day's five stages, Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen rounded off a successful weekend by claiming their first loose-surface stage win on the tricky SS24 section.
SS22: 0844 Carlos Paz - Cabalango (14.81km)
Current world championship leader Sebastien Loeb set the fastest time through the first of three repeated stages to be run before the mid-day service break. The Frenchman was five seconds quicker than the closest challenger, Harri Rovanpera, while Mikko Hirvonen in the remaining Subaru completed the top three through the stage. Relatively secure at the top of the overall leaderboard, Carlos Sainz posted the fifth-fastest time, suggesting that his priorities had shifted from going flat-out to finishing the rally. As crews drove to the village of Tanti, Sainz's lead stood at 1 min 23 sec. Bad news for tenth placed driver Gigi Galli, when a broken steering arm forced his retirement at the end of the stage. Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 10:08.2
SS23: 0917 Tanti - Cosquin (9.50km)
Peugeot's loose surface expert, Harri Rovanpera, was quickest on the short Tanti to Cosquin stage, but his performance hardly dented the 1 min 44 sec gap that separated him from Mikko Hirvonen, ahead of him in fourth place overall. Sainz picked up the pace to finish second on the stage, while Mikko Hirvonen was third in his Impreza WRC2004. Fastest Stage Time: Rovanpera (Peugeot) 5:52.2
SS24: 0954 Cosquin - Villa Allende (19.19km)
A landmark result for Mikko Hirvonen, who shot through the stage to set the fastest time and net the first loose surface win of his young WRC career. Still at an early point in his development programme with Subaru, Hirvonen demonstrated the same sort of potential shown by other youngsters like McRae, Burns and Solberg when they began their World Championship winning careers with the team. Harri Rovanpera was second quickest, with Carlos Sainz third. Gilles Panizzi moved up to seventh overall, ahead of Group N competitor, and local Argentinean hero, Gabriel Pozzo. Fastest Stage Time: Hirvonen (Subaru) 13:32.6
SS25: 1344 Mina Clavero - Guilio Cesare (24.69km)
After a 20-minute service halt at Carlos Paz, crews made their way into the Translasierra Valley for the final two stages of the rally. Starting from Mina Clavero at an altitude of 924 metres above sea level, the rock lined road of SS25 snaked its way up the mountains to a height of 1966 metres. Harri Rovanpera recorded the fastest time through the penultimate stage, with Mikko Hirvonen second and Carlos Sainz third. Fastest Stage Time: Rovanpera (Peugeot) 19:49.9
SS26: 1431 El Condor - Copina
After the ascent came the descent and the challenge of the barren, rock strewn moonscape of El Condor. Starting from the highest point of the whole event, at 2153 metres above sea level, crews negotiated the twisty gravel stage as it passed between giant boulders and past craggy rock faces. Once again Harri Rovanpera set the quickest time although, after losing so much earlier in rally, it was not enough to improve his fifth place overall. Championship leader Sebastien Loeb was second quickest through the stage to claim a second place finish overall, while Mikko Hirvonen, on his first attempt at the monster stage, was third fastest. The result secured the young star a well deserved fourth place overall, the best finish of his WRC career. Fourth fastest on the stage was Carlos Sainz, who kept his cool to take the overall rally victory. Previously sharing a record career-tally of 25 WRC wins with Colin McRae, Sainz now moved ahead to claim the honour for himself with 26 wins. Fastest Stage Time: Rovanpera (Peugeot) 14:06.3
Those last two stages were very difficult and narrow, and I had to take it steady to the end. Both Saturday and Sunday were very good and it was great to be fighting for a potential podium place. The car was excellent and the team and tyres have worked very well. I've really enjoyed this rally with so many different conditions it has a bit of everything. I'm looking forward to Finland where it's going to be much quicker and I'll try to continue to challenge the leaders.
David Lapworth, Team Principal David Lapworth, Team Principal
We are very pleased with Mikko's performance. Perhaps the most important thing is that he has been doing very good times - including his first stage win on gravel - while driving well within his limits. We obviously still have a sense of disappointment about Petter's retirement, but take consolation from another demonstration of the speed of the car, knowing the problems are unlikely to re-occur. A year ago our strength was our performance in rough and twisty events. With the 2004WRC Subaru Impreza we now relish the faster events too and both Petter and Mikko will be going for it in Finland.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli Tyres Sporting Director
Congratulations to Mikko for the best result of his career, which he's achieved on our tyres. It's been a very tough rally with several victims and its unfortunate that Petter was one of them. Before his problems Petter clearly demonstrated the performance of our Pirelli P Zero tyres, as he has been doing so effectively all year.