05 Mar 08
World Rally Championship leader Mikko Hirvonen has described the Ford Escort Mk2 as his “dream car” after testing a version of the machine recently.
Hirvonen swapped his regular Ford Focus RS WRC 07 for the legendary model at a rally school in the UK before heading off to Rally Mexico, where he maintained his title advantage over Sebastien Loeb with a fourth-place finish.
Hirvonen, who won his first rally in 1999 in an Escort that he borrowed from a friend in his native Finland, raved about the car, particularly the Cosworth-built 1800cc BDA (Belt Driven series A) engine. He said: “The power was amazing and that’s why it’s such an easy car to drive. In my Focus, which is four-wheel drive, you try not to be sideways at all but in the rear-wheel drive Escort that’s the way you drive it. You use the throttle to get the car sideways and it’s up to your throttle control if you get it precise or not. You can have a lot more fun with this car.”
Hirvonen covered approximately 30 miles during the test. Afterwards he joked that he would exchange his apartment in Jyvaskyla for the car, which was restored last year by preparation experts Bill Gwynne Motorsport.
Bjorn Waldegard, who won the drivers’ world title in 1979 at the wheel of an Mk2, also attended the test where he was able to offer Hirvonen some invaluable advice. “He didn’t realise he had to use the clutch because the Escort has a synchromesh gearbox, unlike the sequential gearbox in the Focus,” Waldegard said.
The test is featured in the current issue of British title Motorsport News and is the first in a series of articles marking the 40th anniversary of the Escort’s launch.