Thursday | 05 May 2022

Teenage debutant Hirvonen signs up dad as co-driver

Roope Hirvonen, son of four-time FIA World Rally Championship runner-up Mikko, will make his full rally debut in Finland this weekend – with his father in the co-driver’s seat!

The 16-year-old will drive a Ford Focus at Saturday’s Rengas Turku Ralli, a small forest road event based in Salo, 120km west of capital Helsinki.

Roope has been a regular competitor in rallycross-style events and father and son have previously competed in a rallysprint together. But their first rally outing marks a step up and the emphasis is purely on fun.

“It’s pretty exciting,” admitted Roope. “We’ve not had time for a test so I think we are just going to go with no training and try to do our best. The main focus is to get the car to the finish line and complete the rally without any mistakes.

“I'd love to do it more but we’ll see how this goes first. I’ve always wanted to try rallying and I’m kind of into racing for many years now, so it’s time to try something new.”

There are nerves in both father and son. For Mikko, who now drives the safety note car at WRC asphalt events for series leader Kalle Rovanperä, the pressure comes from fulfilling his co-driving duties.

“Yes, I’m scared as well,” he smiled. “I’m probably going to be lost! I mean, that’s going to be our main challenge, just to find the stages and then me doing the time card stuff.”

Fortunately for the former Ford, Citroën and Subaru works driver, there will be no sleepless nights worrying about deciphering pace notes.

“Because Roope is still under 18 and competing in the junior class, he’s not allowed to do a recce. In Finland you have to do a certain number of rallies before you are allowed to use pace notes. That’s good news for me!” smiled Mikko.

The Focus in which they will compete is a newcomer to the Hirvonen stable of cars.

“We basically got the car three weeks ago from another youngster who’s been using it in rallies,” Mikko explained. “We’re competing in the V1600 class. Under the AKK Federation rules, it’s the only class juniors are allowed to drive.

“You can only put in a roll cage and modify the suspension, otherwise it’s completely normal from the road car. You are only allowed to have a 1.6-litre engine, so it’s a kind of stepping stone.”

Mikko is keen to encourage Roope’s motorsport interest but equally keen that the expectations are low key.

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“Really, we’re just going go out there to have a good time. We really enjoy doing motorsport stuff together and it’s just going to be more like a family weekend out and at the same time we can do a rally,” he added.

“Roope hasn’t driven the car at all in the summertime and he hasn’t really driven on proper stages either. But we don’t need to achieve anything.

“For the moment, even though we want to do rallies, we are not planning to be the next Rovanperä or Solberg. We’re just going to go there as father and son to have a good time.”

The event is the first of Finland’s summer season and contains four special stages covering almost 45km.

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