Solid points ignite M-Sport’s championship campaign
"We wanted to be in the fight for the podium this weekend"
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mikko Hirvonen and Elfyn Evans delivered a solid performance at Rally Australia to strengthen the team’s position in the FIA World Rally Championship standings.
As the route ventured north for two loops of three technically challenging stages, Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen were locked in an intense battle for fourth position. Just 0.6 seconds separated the Finns from their rivals going into the opening test and Hirvonen wasn’t going to let the position go without a fight.
Despite a disadvantaged road position, he put up an admirable fight behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC but ultimately had to settle for fifth position – missing out by less than ten seconds.
He may have lost his fourth place to a resurgent Kris Meeke, but Hirvonen’s performance this weekend has seen the M-Sport man strengthen his position in the championship – jumping from sixth to fourth in the drivers’ standings.
In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt continued to display the focus and determination that will see them competing at the head of the field in years to come. Making his first appearance at the Australian fixture, Evans was keen to extract as much experience from the technical stages as possible, and did just that by finishing in a strong eighth place overall.
Although yesterday’s misfortune prevented the youngster from showcasing the pace he had hoped to achieve, Evans concluded a risk free event with a highly precise set of notes and an abundance of knowledge that will see him impress to a greater extent next year.
The Manufacturers’ title may have been settled this weekend, but the battle for second is still very much alive. Thanks to the solid points achieved by both Fiesta drivers, the M-Sport World Rally Team has climbed into third place – just eight points adrift of the runner-up spot with three rallies left to run.
Mikko Hirvonen (5th) said:
“We wanted to be in the fight for the podium this weekend. Unfortunately that wasn’t to be, but it wasn’t a bad weekend for us at all and we had a good fight with Kris [Meeke] towards the end. We gave it everything we had but Kris [Meeke] was just that little bit faster on every stage today.
“As I say it wasn’t a bad weekend. I was really happy with my driving and we’re up to fourth in the championship now – I think we can be pleased with that.”
Elfyn Evans (8th) said:
“Our objective wasn’t to show speed here this weekend. It was all about learning the stages and the environment. Even though it was a little frustrating at times, I think we managed to do that.
“I think we showed some good pace as the third car on the road today and the driving felt a lot more natural and better than it had been previously. We’ve learnt the stages and got a good set of notes so I think we’re in a position to come back much stronger next year. These stages are amazing and I can’t wait to come back and drive them at full speed.”
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s been a productive weekend for the team. It was a shame that we weren’t in a position to challenge for the podium with Mikko [Hirvonen] but he drove well all weekend and has gained two places in the drivers’ championship as a result.
“This was the last new event of the year for Elfyn [Evans] so his objective was to learn the stages and the character of the event so that he can be in a better position to challenge next year. He’s done that and he showed some good pace as the third car on the road this afternoon.
“Congratulations to Volkswagen Motorsport for claiming the Manufacturers’ Championship this weekend, but the battle for second is still very much alive; and thanks to a solid drive from both Mikko and Elfyn we’re in a really strong position to challenge for the runner-up spot – just eight points adrift with some strong events to come.”
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