Date of Birth:31 Jul 80
Car:Citroen DS3 WRC
WRC Debut:Finland 2002
WRC Rally Wins:15
2012: Second in World Rally Championship with one win
2011: Second in World Rally Championship with two wins
2010: Sixth in World Rally Championship with one win
2009: Second in World Rally championship with four wins
2008: Second in World Rally Championship with three wins
2007: Third in World Rally Championship with three wins
2006: Takes maiden WRC win. Third in World Rally Championship
2005: Leads Acropolis Rally of Greece in a privateer Ford Focus. Scores first podium on RACC Rally de Espana
2004: Signs for Subaru as replacement to the retiring Tommi Makinen
2003: Contests first full WRC in works-assisted Focus
2002: Finnish Formula 2 Champion
Hirvonen, who started rallying in 1998, first emerged as a future star when he won the Finnish Formula 2 title in 2002. Supported by renowned Finnish talent backer Timo Jouhki, Hirvonen also tried four-wheel-drive machinery for size that season, contesting the Subaru Cup in Italy. Although he ultimately lost out on the title when he crashed on the final stage of the final round, he was elevated to the world stage for 2003 with a full 14-programme campaign in a factory-run Ford Focus.
After rolling on his debut in Monte Carlo, his performances thereafter were solid enough to the extent that Subaru took notice and signed the youngster for 2004. However, team and driver failed to gel and Hirvonen was left with a bit-part programme for 2005 in a two-year-old Focus.
Undeterred, Hirvonen led in Greece before finishing third overall in Catalunya, which earned him a seat in the factory Ford team as number two to Marcus Gronholm for 2006. While Gronholm set about trying to secure a third drivers’ title, Hirvonen chipped in with his share of the points to make Ford manufacturers’ champion for the first time since 1979, taking his first WRC win in Australia in the process.
Hirvonen again played a crucial supporting role to Gronholm in 2007 as Ford clinched back-to-back titles. But by outpacing his team leader to win the inaugural Rally Norway, Hirvonen served notice of his intent. After claiming further wins in Japan and Great Britain, he was promoted to the number one Ford ride for 2008 following Gronholm’s retirement.
Aged 27, Hirvonen started 2008 as one of the youngest and least experienced team leaders, but he rose to the challenge by scoring on all 15 rounds of the season. He remained in the championship fight with Sebastien Loeb until the penultimate round on the back of three further wins but had to settle for second.
The 2009 season proved to be his most successful and exciting so far. Third on the season opener in Ireland after a power steering problem, Hirvonen was Loeb’s closest challenger on the three rallies that followed. But after an engine-related retirement on the fifth round in Argentina, Loeb had opened up a 20-point lead, and Hirvonen’s title bid looked all but over. But Hirvonen didn’t give in and took four-straight wins as Loeb’s title bid wobbled to set up a thrilling climax to the season.
Despite moving ahead of Loeb in the overall standings with two rounds left to run, Hirvonen couldn’t prevent Loeb from triumphing in Spain and Great Britain, which handed the Frenchman the title spoils by a single point in a winner-takes-all finale.
Hirvonen responded in the best possible fashion by beating Loeb into second place on the 2010 season-opener in Sweden. Aside from a third-place finish on round four in Turkey, the Sweden victory was as good as it good for Hirvonen as his title campaign imploded following a miserable run of results that culminated in a huge crash on Rally Finland from which he was lucky to emerge unscathed.
The advent of the new-generation World Rally Car era in 2011 got off to the best possible start for Hirvonen when he took his Ford Fiesta RS WRC to a standout victory in Sweden. But he failed to build on that early success and struggled to keep pace with his rivals. A win in Australia and a succession of tough rallies for Loeb brought him back into the title fight only for an early clash on Wales Rally GB to shatter his dreams of the crown once again.
Despite falling short in the title battle, Hirvonen had done enough to impress Citroen, who signed the Finn on a two-year deal as Loeb’s number two.
In 2012, he was a model of consistency: he scored between 13 and 21 points in every rally bar two. In Portugal, he failed to finish, and in Italy, he won. His finishing tally of 213 points was almost exactly half way between Sebastian Loeb and Jari-Matti Latvala. It was also almost identical to his 2011 tally of 214 points, despite changing from Ford to Citroen.
In 2013, he will stay at Citroen and, in the partial absence of Sebastian Loeb, has to start the season as the favourite to win.