Hirvonen to tackle Dakar with MINI
Finn returns to competition after a year away
The former Ford team-leader retired from full time competition last year having notched up 15 WRC victories. Now he splits his time between road testing extreme machines for Finnish car magazine Tuulilasi and a new career in cross-country rallying with MINI.
Hirvonen's latest testing assignment took him to Estonia's Pärnu circuit for a ten lap stint in a 2007-model Williams. "It was really a fantastic experience, it gave me a small taste and left me wanting more," he told wrc.com.
"It felt amazing, and quite easy to handle, although with just 10 laps I wasn't able to get the best out of it. I suppose it's a bit like a rally car - up to a point it's quite an easy thing to handle - it's only when you push the limits that you start to feel the benefit of the downforce and the brakes. That's when it's a totally different world. I was missing a little bit to get right up there."
After 13 seasons working from the cockpit of a production-based World Rally Car, Hirvonen was impressed by the F1 driving experience. "It was very different to a WRC car," he said. "For a start you sit so low and there is no roll in the corners. And then there's the engine. It just keeps on going. Even up in seventh gear it never stops accelerating."
"The handling took some getting used to - especially when you're used to body roll and having to find the grip when the car is sliding a little. In the F1 car, when you are not sliding or rolling, it's hard to find the limit. Physically, it's more tiring than a WRC car, you feel the g-forces through your neck much more."
But while Hirvonen was impressed by the Williams, he admitted the experience fell short of the 1000bhp, 10-litre V8 dragster [pictured bottom] he tested earlier this year. "That was the best thing I have done on four wheels. Absolutely amazing. When you lift the throttle all hell breaks loose - it went from 0-150kph in 1.3sec. Driving that left me so excited I went looking to buy one myself."
Watch Hirvonen's F1 test in the video below.
All photographs courtesy of Tuulilasi.fi