Monday | 02 Jun 2014

Italy countdown: one to watch

Given their recent form, Sebastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala appear to be the most likely candidates for victory at this week’s Rally Italia Sardegna. But we think M-sport’s Mikko Hirvonen could have something to say about that.

Here’s why:

Consistent performer
Hirvonen’s record at Rally Italia Sardegna is exemplary and makes him a driver to be feared. In the last seven years that he’s started the sandy gravel rally, the Finn has taken one victory, finished second on five occasions and only retired once. Hirvonen clearly knows what it takes to find some good speed on the Rally Italia stages and that could be invaluable if he manages to bring all of the rally-winning elements together at the same time.

Argentina fight back
After finishing second at Rally Portugal in April, Hirvonen looked to take his new-found speed into Rally Argentina last time out. Things didn’t quite go according to plan though, after he slammed his Ford Fiesta WRC into a wall at the side of the road on the second stage. But, despite having very little to play for, Hirvonen came out fighting. He was fastest on all but one of the stages on the final day to salvage some personal pride.

Hirvonen impressed at Rally Portugal, taking his Ford Fiesta RS WRC to second place

Eager to win again
Hirvonen has won 15 WRC rallies during his career and all but one of those victories came in Ford rally cars. Results and performances haven’t been as strong as he would have liked since he rejoined Malcolm Wilson’s M-Sport squad at the start of the 2014 season, but that hasn’t dampened the 33-year-old’s enthusiasm to start winning again. His last WRC victory came at Rally Italia in 2012. That should give him lots of confidence.

Stages he likes
Although he was brought up on super-fast wide gravel stages in Finland, Hirvonen also has a strong affinity for the fast, narrow stages that he’ll tackle in Sardinia. He likes the technical nature of the roads and is supremely confident in the accuracy of the pace notes that he will put together with his long-time co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen. If he can apply some meaningful pressure on day one and avoids punctures and silly mistakes, Hirvonen has the power to upset the rhythm of his rivals.

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