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.