GB countdown: the stages
We delve deep into the Welsh forests for a look ahead at 2014’s final round
Following speculation over his 2015 plans, the 34-year-old Finn confirmed today (Thursday) that he will bow out after 13 seasons at the top.
Hirvonen plans to devote more time to his family after a career in which he finished runner-up in the drivers’ championship four times, and played a key role in Ford winning back-to-back manufacturers’ titles in 2006 and 2007.
“Throughout the many years of my competitive career, I have focused on myself a lot. Rallying has taken up a large part of my life and the pace of the calendar has been fairly unrelenting.
“I have enjoyed absolutely every minute of it and although I still love driving now, I would also like to concentrate more on other important things which are part of my life, like my children and my family,” said Hirvonen, who has claimed 15 wins and 68 podiums from 162 starts.
He made his WRC debut in 2002 and spent most of his career driving for Ford, apart from a year at Subaru in 2004 and two seasons at Citroen in 2012 and 2013. He returned to Ford this year as lead driver for M-Sport World Rally Team.
“I have so many incredible memories from the last 13 seasons. I have travelled all around the world, met some fantastic people and have loved every rally and every fight I’ve had with some exceptional drivers. I won some and lost some, but I will look back on these moments to the end of my days with a great big smile on my face,” he said.
Hirvonen reserved special thanks for co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen, who partnered him on all but two starts.
“It has been a privilege to work with Jarmo and none of this would have happened without him. We met for the first time at Helsinki Airport in 2001, before flying to Italy where we were meant to be competing on our first rally together.
“It was the beginning of a great friendship. In these 13 years full of laughter, adventures, wins, losses and passions, we have experienced everything together,” he said.
Hirvonen had the misfortune to be at his peak at the same time as nine-time world champion Sébastien Loeb and the duo enjoyed a huge rivalry.
“They were the greatest battles and the ones I loved the most, whether they were won or lost. Seb was a rival and team-mate for whom I had, and still have, a lot of respect and I think the feeling was mutual,” he added.
|Consecutive points finishes:||22|