MINI Motorsports

Mikko Hirvonen to make Dakar Rally debut in 2016

MINI All4 Racing

Mikko Hirvonen will be helped through the withdrawals of his post-WRC career by competing for the all conquering MINI X-raid Team in the 2016 Dakar Rally (3–16 January). The MINI All4 Racing has won the last four Dakar events.

What does Mikko know about the Dakar? Not a lot it turns out, which is why he will be preparing for the Dakar by competing with X-raid in a selection of events in the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup. Mikko will make his MINI All4 Racing debut in the Baja Aragón race (24–26 July).

Even though he is joining a team with hopes of outright success at Dakar, Hirvonen maintains the old adage to finish first, first you have to finish.

“Dakar is such a long race and the dunes there are in a world of their own,” Hirvonen said. “So, to finish the event without encountering major issues or without getting stuck anywhere already would represent a really good achievement for my first Dakar.

“Meanwhile, the Baja Aragón is going to be more of the kind of rallying I’m used to. But driving without pace notes in your road book is not so easy and I still have to familiarise myself with the MINI All4 Racing as well.

“But should I feel good in the car and everything works well we hopefully will be able to set some good times in Baja Aragón.”

Ford Video WRC

Thank you Mikko

Mikko Hirvonen,

Mikko Hirvonen retired from the WRC after Wales Rally GB. Via his personal YouTube channel he’s released this thank you video, which includes footage from his final rally and a few short interviews with his colleagues and competitors.

One of the nice guys is leaving one of world motorsport’s best most exhilarating categories. Let’s refelect for a moment and say thanks.

Citroen Ford Hyundai Volkswagen WRC

2014 Wales Rally GB in pictures

2014 Wales Rally GB

Will you just look at all that bloody mud! It’s the signature look for the Wales Rally GB and, for once, being first on the road was a nice advantage for rally winner Sebastien Ogier who made the most of the wet conditions before the stages became too rutted and dug up by all the cars.

There’s some great photos below and we trust you will enjoy your last gallery of rally pics for 2014. Until Rallye Monte Carlo… if in doubt, flat out!

Citroen Ford Volkswagen WRC

Sebastien Ogier wins 2014 Wales Rally GB

2014 Wales Rally GB

Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia have capped off a stunning WRC season with their eighth victory of the year at the Wales Rally GB. It’s the twelfth win for Volkswagen from the 13 race calendar and a season of success like this has to be savoured, for you can never expect it to be repeated.

“That is obviously the best way to end a season: with a win,” said Ogier after the rally. “We really had to go flat-out on Friday and had a close battle for the lead with my team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala. That allowed us to open up a big lead over the rest of our rivals.

“When Jari-Matti made a mistake on Saturday, it obviously completely changed the character of the rally for us. I just had to get the car to the finish line. However, that is anything but easy given the typical conditions here in Wales. All in all, it has been another magnificent season for Julien and me, with a fantastic team behind us.”

In perhaps his best achievable result in his final WRC start Mikko Hirvonen ended his career on the podium, a bit over 37 seconds behind Ogier. It was a great way for the popular Finn to say goodbye to his fans.

“I couldn’t really think of a better way to end my career,” Hirvonen said. “We had a great fight all through the weekend and to finish with the second place is absolutely fantastic.

“Today it was a bit emotional for sure. Before this morning I manage to be pretty on it and concentrate on the rally, but today it was a bit more difficult!”

Mads Ostberg finished third, meaning the healthy sight of three different manufacturers on the podium was a pleasing way to end the WRC season, dominated by Volkswagen.

Ostberg’s points proved valuable for Citroën and allowed them to claim second place in the manufacturers’ championship, just two points ahead of M-Sport (Ford).

Given their all-conquering season Volkswagen might have hoped the final event could end like the championship standings, with their drivers filling the first three places. But for some minor errors by Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen that might have been the case too. The Polos certainly had the pace in the muddy conditions, but not the consistency from the men behind the wheel.

Still, 2014 has been a great season for Volkswagen and we hope Citroën, Ford and Hyundai can raise their game in 2015.

Ford WRC

Mikko Hirvonen says it’s time to slow down

2014 WRC Rally Rally-Spain

Not everyone in the WRC can be a good bloke, but we can’t imagine there’ll be too many people willing to say a bad word about Mikko Hirvonen. And that’s why, at the age of 34, it’s a real shame to see the likeable Finn announce his retirement from top level motorsport. The upcoming Wales Rally GB will be his final WRC event.

Hirvonen and long-time co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen have started 162 rallies together, collected a total of 15 wins, 68 podium finishes and but for an incredible run of championships from Sebastien Loeb could have hoped for more than being four-times runner up in the WRC.

“I have so many incredible memories from the last thirteen seasons,” Hirvonen said. “I have had the chance to achieve my childhood dreams!

“I have travelled all around the world, met some fantastic people and have loved every rally and every fight that I have had with some exceptional drivers. I won some and I lost some but, for sure, I will look back on these moments to the end of my days with a great big smile on my face.”

Co-drivers often get left in the background and Hirvonen’s thoughts on sharing a car with Lehtinen are worth sharing: “‘Privilege’, because it has been a privilege to work with Jarmo. 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 in our first rally together. It was the beginning of a great friendship.

“In these thirteen years, full of laughter, adventures, wins, losses and passion, we have experienced everything together. And I know that it’s not over yet! We’ll share many more experiences, because there are still a few great pages to be written in our notebook!”

Whatever the future holds for Mikko and Jarmo we wish the very best of success.

Citroen Ford Hyundai Volkswagen WRC

2014 Rally Spain in pictures

2014 WRC Rally Rally-Spain

Rally Spain is the only mixed surface event on the WRC calendar. The opening day is on gravel, the remaining two days are on tarmac. It’s a huge test for the crews to work on the cars and make significant changes to setups during relatively short service stops. It’s also a big test for the drivers, who switch from cars with massive suspension travel and small brakes to firm riding track-day weapons with huge brakes.

The surface change played a key role in Sebastien Ogier’s victory, too, with teammate Jari-Matti Latvala struggling on day one, only to find his feet on the smooth tarmac roads in Catalunya. What was a lead of around 30 seconds after the first day was whittled back to a lead of 11 seconds by the rally’s end. Still, that was enough for Ogier to secure back-to-back world championships.

You’ll see from the images below that the dust on those gravel roads not only affected the outcome of the rally, but provided some truly spectacular images as well. Of note in Spain also, Ken Block took some time out from burning rubber to make one of his rare WRC appearances.

Ford Volkswagen WRC

Sebastien Ogier wins 2014 Rally Spain

2014 WRC Rally Spain

Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia have wrapped up their second world rally championship after taking victory in Rally Spain yesterday. The French duo needed just one more point than Jari-Matti Latvala to defend their title and despite a relatively slender 11 second winning margin they always had Latvala’s measure.

“It’s a fantastic feeling to become world champion for a second time! I’m over the moon, it was a real battle to defend the title,” an excited Ogier said after his victory. “In particular, my team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala showed an incredibly strong performance in the last few months. Now Julien and I have a great sense of happiness and relief.

“Big thanks to our fantastic team at Volkswagen. Not just for giving us a fantastic car throughout the season. But also for the unique solidarity that we have. It doesn’t matter whether things are going well or badly—the team stands by every driver crew and that is extremely motivating. I’m happy and proud to be part of this team. Today we will have a big world championship party, that much is clear!”

Rally Spain is run on a mix of gravel and tarmac and on the opening gravel stages Latvala struggled with his car and spent the rest of the rally chasing Ogier’s tail. The Finn did well to fight back and claim second place, he also claimed the fastest time in the power stage and three bonus championship points. Latvala is now 31 points behind Ogier and with just Wales Rally GB left to race and 28 points on offer he’ll have to make do with second once more.

Ford driver Mikko Hirvonen finished third in Spain, which leaves him fourth in the championship and the best placed non-Volkswagen driver. Hirvonen cannot catch Andreas Mikkelsen, who finished seventh, meaning Volkswagen drivers will finish the year 1-2-3 in the overall drivers’ standings.

Mads Ostberg was fourth in his Citroën ahead of Hyundai duo Dani Sordo and Thierry Neuville. While Hyundai and Neuville are the only combination to take victory from Volkswagen this year, we must pray that Hyundai and the other teams can increase the pressure on Volkswagen’s title defence in 2015.

For now, though, well done to Ogier and Volkswagen for their unrelenting dominance.

Ford WRC

That’s one expensive barbecue!

Mikko Hirvonen, 2014 WRC Rally Italia

M-Sport boss Malcolm Wilson has revealed the cost of Mikko Hirvonen’s burnt out Fiesta RS WRC is beyond £400,000 (AU$718,000).

“The financial implications to replace it are huge,” Wilson told “You’re looking in excess of £400,000 and we don’t insure the rally cars, so that’s a big hit.

“If you have a big crash then nearly all the mechanical components are usually OK. But with what happened here, there is absolutely nothing we can reuse. Everything is destroyed and it’s a big loss.”

M-Sport wants to investigate the cause of the blaze, but due to the severity of the damage the team isn’t sure if the wreckage will hold any answers.

“We’ll take the car back to the UK but it will be difficult to identify anything,” added Wilson. “Unless something like the propshaft has broken and gone through the fuel tank. Then it will be pretty obvious, even though the car is destroyed.”

[Source: WRC]

Ford WRC

Mikko Hirvonen lights my fire

Mikko Hirvonen, 2014 WRC Rally Italia

Mikko Hirvonen’s Rally Italia came to an abrupt and fiery end last night after his M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS WRC became engulfed in flames during a liaison stage.

The Finn started the rally well, leading the event after Thursday night’s special stage. He had slipped just out of the top five the following day as the rally began to hit its straps and it was between SS3 and SS4 where things really went south for Hirvonen.

“I have no idea what happened and I don’t think we are ever going to find out,” a bemused Hirvonen explained. “It was really strange. Straight after the stage [SS3] everything was OK and operating as it should. We stopped, took our HANS and helmet off, checked all the tyre pressures, had the usual look around the car and everything was fine.

“After we set off again, the car caught fire. We smelt the smoke and as I looked back the rear-right corner was covered in flames. We stopped straight away but they were already over the roof. I managed to empty three fire extinguishers but it didn’t do anything to calm the blaze. There was nothing we could do to save the car.”

Thankfully, Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen were able to escape without injury. Team boss Malcolm Wilson says he is keen to find the cause of the fire.

“Obviously we’re all relieved that Mikko and Jarmo are both OK after today,” Wilson said. “The car has been completely destroyed and there is nothing to be rescued which is a big blow to the team.

“We’re still waiting to get the car back, but having spoken with Mikko it seems to have started somewhere towards the right-rear wheel which is something we do not really understand.

“There’ll be a thorough investigation back at Dovenby Hall to work out exactly what happened.”

A short video can be seen after the break.

[Pics: @carlrue & @andrespocoyo]

Ford WRC

M-Sport ready to fly Ford flag in WRC

2014 M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS WRC

M-Sport has revealed its new livery for the 2014 WRC season and while we do think the Fiesta RS WRC looks great in this predominantly dark blue colour scheme we’re pretty sure M-Sport would like a fair dinkum major sponsor.

In the end we’re being told what a great job Castrol and Michelin do while M-Sport grits its teeth and thanks Ford for the EcoBoost branding. Any chance of proper factory support?

Of course, M-Sport drivers Mikko Hirvonen and Elfyn Evans reckon everything’s hunky dory and can’t wait to get out on the icy tarmac of Rallye Monte Carlo.

We wish these guys well, they’ll be the underdogs all year.

Ford WRC

Hirvonen and Evans confirmed for M-Sport in 2014

Mikko Hirvonen

Ford’s presence in the WRC relies on the resilience of Malcolm Wilson and his M-Sport outfit; this is not a fully factory-backed team like we see with Volkswagen, Citroën and now Hyundai. And while we’re sure it’s not a case of M-Sport having to take what’s left on the driver market, the fact they are the last team to announce its 2014 driver line up kind of tells you how things sit in the WRC right now.

Having said that a driver pairing of rally veteran Mikko Hirvonen and WRC rookie Elfyn Evans shapes as being one of the most interesting to watch during the year. Evans spent 2013 chasing Robert Kubica’s tail in the WRC2 championship and the 24-year-old Welshman has bags of potential.

Meanwhile, 33-year-old Hirvonen, who made his WRC debut in 2002, is coming off two unfulfilled years at Citroën and will be desperate to prove his abilities once again. Let’s not forget the Fiesta RS WRC was the car Thierry Neuville drove to second place in the drivers’ championship this year.

“To be back in a Ford Fiesta RS WRC, it really feels as though I am coming home,” Hirvonen said. “Joining M-Sport will give us a good chance to try again—a fresh start in a car we know we can be competitive in. We are motivated to win, and we are in the best possible place to do that.”

Evans is keen to make the step up to rally’s premier category. “It is an absolutely fantastic feeling to know that I will be driving a world rally car for a full season next year,” he said. “Last year was a real development year for us, so it is great to be able to take the next step in my career and for myself and Dan [Barritt, co-driver] to really progress within the team.”

M-Sport will be a real underdog team in 2014 and we wouldn’t mind seeing them upset a few apple carts along the way.

Citroen WRC

Meeke and Ostberg signed by Citroën for 2014

Citroen DS3 WRC, 2013 Rally Australia

Citroën Racing announced its 2014 WRC driver lineup overnight and it’s big news, with Mikko Hirvonen shown the door from the French team. With the retirement of Sebastien Loeb behind them Citroën will return with two full-time drivers next year: 34-year-old Northern Irishman Kris Meeke will race alongside 26-year-old Norwegian Mads Ostberg.

It’s big show of faith for Meeke and co-driver Paul Nagle. Meeke’s last appearance for Citroën was at Rally Australia and things didn’t end well after he crashed out twice during the event.

“It’s an incredible opportunity,” Meeke enthused. “I’ve always been close to Citroën over the last few years. I’m really lucky to be able to work with a team that has so much experience and so many titles.”

“I have only competed in ten World Championship rallies in a WRC,” the former MINI driver added. “I think I’ve got some potential, but I still need to get some experience under my belt. The Citroën DS3 WRC is a terrific car and I’m going to be able to use the team’s knowledge to help me improve. I know that I’ll have to be patient in the first half of the season and learn all about the rallies that I haven’t done before.”

With 65 WRC events, and one victory, under his belt Ostberg is ready for the challenge ahead and brings with him a focus for success.

“I’m joining Citroën Racing to get some good results and to try and win some rallies,” the former Ford driver said. “I’ve always shown that I could be quick. I know that the standard in the World Rally Championship is exceptionally high, but I want to be competitive!”

As in 2013, Abu Dhabi driver Khalid Al Qassimi will drive in selected WRC events, which include Sweden, Portugal, Italy and Spain. He will also concentrate on taking part in the entire Middle East rally Championship.

The futures of Hirvonen, Dani Sordo and Robert Kubica remain uncertain. You’d expect Hirvonen to be considered by M-Sport. Meanwhile, the high of winning his first rally this year may be short lived for tarmac specialist Sordo. Kubica has previously said he will only race in the WRC next year if he can secure a full-time drive; his opportunities are fast running out.