In our second half-term driver report, we look at Mikko Hirvonen’s progress so far aboard his M-Sport World Rally Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC.
Much was expected of Hirvonen when he returned to the M-Sport stable at the beginning of the year. He’d had two largely unspectacular seasons with Citroen – scoring only one victory for the French manufacturer – and it was time for a fresh start.
Hirvonen had won 14 rallies with Malcolm Wilson’s Ford-powered team in the past and two of those victories had come behind the wheel of the Fiesta WRC. With the latest-spec Fiesta being used in 2014, the link up between Hirvonen and M-Sport was expected to be a match made in heaven.
But with seven rallies now complete, Hirvonen has been unable to progress past fifth place in the championship standings. He’s had a pretty rotten year so far with various issues affecting his results, including two alternator failures, pace note problems and a spectacular fire.
His best results have been a second place and two fourths, but the reality is that the likeable Finn simply hasn’t been fast enough on a consistent basis. It’s a conundrum that’s left many people scratching their heads – including Hirvonen - and its left M-Sport's lead driver devoid of rally-winning confidence.
He’ll be hoping for a much stronger second half to the season as he bids to show the world that he still has what it takes to consistently challenge at the head of the field. There is a rally winner inside Hirvonen’s Fiesta. But more work is needed to set it free.
Rally Portugal was where Hirvonen showed his true colours. He led on Friday and, although he couldn’t fend off Sebastien Ogier’s VW, he still managed to hang on to a second place at the finish. This was a much-improved performance for Hirvonen and 18 championship points brought a genuine smile back to his face.
With a record of one win, five second places and one retirement in seven starts at Rally Italia Sardegna, this year’s event was one where the Finn was expected to excel. But when his Fiesta WRC was destroyed after catching on a first day road section, Hirvonen was robbed of the opportunity to add to his impressive record in Sardinia. Like his car, he was gutted.
Mikko Hirvonen gallery