Hirvonen: I couldn’t really think of a better way to end my career
Mikko signs out in style
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen brought their FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) careers to an end in style today – securing second place at Wales Rally GB.
The Finns were locked in an intense battle for the final podium positions throughout the weekend. Ultimately however, their speed, experience and determination saw them over-shadow all who threatened to disrupt a near-perfect weekend.
In true Wales Rally GB style, the stages were treacherously slippery but Hirvonen controlled the situation brilliantly. Conserving his pace when necessary and pushing when comfortable, the Ford Fiesta RS WRC driver adopted an effective mix of speed and consistency – setting a string of competitive times including the fastest time through yesterday’s second pass of Clocaenog Main (SS15).
Their podium finish was the perfect way to say goodbye to the championship which has given them so much and the sport which they have given so much to themselves.
Having dedicated thirteen years to the WRC, Hirvonen has secured 15 wins, 69 podiums, and six FIA Champions’ trophies. Ironically however, Lehtinen has picked up one more FIA trophy than his driver – their result this weekend securing third place in the 2014 co-drivers’ standings.
Both men will be greatly missed, not just by the M-Sport family, but by the entire WRC community.
In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Elfyn Evans secured fifth place on his world rally car debut on home soil. The Welshman, who is partnered by co-driver Daniel Barritt, didn’t put a foot wrong all weekend and displayed real strength of character; unwilling to be pressurised into any unnecessary battles.
Concentrating on his own event, Evans upped his pace considerably throughout the weekend to produce what has been one of his best performances on gravel. Securing a joint second fastest time through the second pass of Kinmel Park (SS21), the youngster was reigning in fourth-placed man Thierry Neuville.
Despite having to settle for fifth, Evans goes into 2015 with his confidence high – ready to show more of his true potential.
Mikko Hirvonen (2nd) said:
“I couldn’t really think of a better way to end my career. We had a great fight all through the weekend and to finish with the second place is absolutely fantastic.
“Today it was a bit emotional for sure. Before this morning I manage to be pretty on it and concentrate on the rally, but today it was a bit more difficult!
“I just feel really good about the whole weekend. I really couldn’t have asked for anything better and it was the perfect way to end this very special chapter of our lives.”
Elfyn Evans (5th) said:
“I think we would have taken fifth place at the start of the event for sure. We knew before the rally started that even bettering our result from last year would have been a good achievement given the depth of the entry. To come away in fifth is strong and I think we’ve managed to show some good speed along the way.
“All in all it’s been a good weekend and a good way to finish off the year. I can’t wait to start next season now. We’ve got a lot more experience and I’m looking forward to what I hope will be another successful season at this level.
“Finally, I want to wish Mikko [Hirvonen] all the best. I really couldn’t have wished for a better team mate this year. He and Jarmo [Lehtinen, co-driver] have been so willing to share their experience over the year and if I can achieve anything like his CV at the end of my career then I would be very proud indeed. It was great to see him end such an influential career with such a positive result and I know that the whole team will really miss him and Jarmo next year.”
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It is such a pleasure to see Mikko [Hirvonen] and Jarmo [Lehtinen] end their careers with such a positive result. It’s hard to put into words, but I can certainly say that they have made a lasting impression on the team. They are liked by everyone and will be dearly missed. All of us were immensely proud to see him take such a result away from what has been a very special weekend.
“Elfyn [Evans] has had a really good weekend too. He did exactly what was asked of him and came away with a strong fifth place. He didn’t let the pressure of being at home get to him at all and showed some really encouraging speed along the way. I think it’s fair to say that this has been one of his best performances on gravel and we’re all looking forward to seeing what he can do with a year of experience under his belt next year.”
ADDITIONAL M-SPORT WRC DRIVERS
Ott Tänak (7th) said:
“I think it’s been a good event for us. The plan was to get used to driving a world rally car again on the first day and then get closer to our best times on day two. That was what we did. Okay we were a bit rusty in the beginning, but we had a good feeling yesterday afternoon. We managed to set some good times and were getting close to the top five. Unfortunately we picked up a puncture this morning so we had to be a bit careful after that as we only had one spare.”
Matthew Wilson (14th / 3rd WRC 2) said:
“It’s been a really good weekend and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. Okay it’s been tricky and we’ve had to contend with some difficult conditions at times, but it’s just been brilliant fun from start to finish.
“This morning we had a real good battle and to finish the last stage with another fastest time was a great way to end the weekend. It’s been spot-on and I want to thank Michelin for their support in bringing this iconic livery back to the stages – the response from the fans has been unbelievable.”
Quentin Gilbert (21st / 8th WRC 2) said:
“We had a difficult start to the weekend without much confidence in the conditions but as the weekend went on we got a lot more comfortable and were able to set some really good times. I’ve been quite happy with the pace although experience counts for a lot here. This was only my second time at this event – my first in a four-wheel-drive car. It was difficult at times but we’ve learnt a lot for sure.”
Nicolas Fuchs (23rd / 9th WRC 2) said:
“Every day it got better and better and I learnt a lot about this rally – mainly about how to set-up the car. I know that if I come back next year I need to do a good test to get the best set-up for the car and to work on my pacenotes because they were not 100 per cent correct for all of the slow corners.”
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