Friday | 07 Nov 2014

Hirvonen: My WRC memories

Mikko Hirvonen yesterday announced that next week’s Wales Rally GB (13 - 16 November) will be his final drive before retiring after 13 seasons at the top. The popular Finn sat down with to relive his best memories.

Rally Australia 2006

After five consecutive podiums in a Ford Focus RS WRC, Hirvonen sealed his first win at a hot Perth-based event (pictured above).

“Victories are really special and the first win is something you work for all your young life. When you start to drive, you hope that some day you will be good enough to win a rally and it was amazing when I did that. It was one of those career moments I’m most proud about.”

Congratulations - Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen enjoy world title success with Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen in New Zealand

Rally New Zealand 2006

Three weeks later, Marcus Grönholm and Hirvonen claimed a 1-2 across the Tasman Sea to secure Ford’s first manufacturers’ world title since 1979. It was a feat they repeated in 2007.

“Those two years were my first with Ford and we won the title on both occasions. It was amazing to be part of the team, especially in Hamilton, when we secured the title there. The party afterwards with all the team members was fantastic.

“It was great to work with Marcus and I learned a lot. I was still pretty young so it helped to see how he worked, what kind of person he was and what he wanted from the car.”

Champagne Mikko - victory in Finland

The 2009 season

Four consecutive wins sent Hirvonen into the final round in Britain with a slender championship lead over arch-rival Sébastien Loeb. Whoever won would take the crown, and they fought tooth and nail until the final morning when a flapping bonnet cost the Finn vital seconds.

“It went down to the wire in UK where, on the Sunday morning, the bonnet pin came off and that was the end of the fight. I remember so clearly the long forest straights when I was waiting for the clip to break and the bonnet pop up in front of me. Finally it did.

“I didn’t win any titles but I don’t feel bad about that. I’m more proud I had the chance to fight for the titles. If Loeb wasn’t there, there might have been someone else to beat me.

“Winning Rally Finland in 2009 was special - in front of my boys, my family and friends and in my home town. Nothing beats that."

Winter master - Monte-Carlo in 2010

Rallye Monte-Carlo 2010

Hirvonen debuted Ford’s Fiesta S2000 and led from start to finish, beating Juho Hänninen by almost two minutes in full snow and ice.

“That whole weekend was fantastic. Conditions at the test were horrendous. It snowed so much that when we drove downhill it was OK, but we got stuck every time we went uphill. Our mechanics worked until 2am every night because it was a new car, but it paid off.”

Wales Rally of Great Britain 2007

Hirvonen clinched his third win of the season. The weather was awful but he prospered to win by 15.sec (below).

“The conditions were so damned difficult. It was foggy, rainy and muddy and I battled with Grönholm and Loeb. I’m really proud of that victory because we couldn’t see anything and the forests were so slippery.”

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