BRENTWOOD, England – Former Ford World Rally Team driver Mikko Hirvonen will be back behind the wheel of a Fiesta RS WRC in 2014 after agreeing terms with M-Sport.
Hirvonen, who has won 14 WRC events in Ford machinery, will line-up alongside talented youngster Elfyn Evans in a new-look M-Sport team for all 13 rounds of next season’s championship.
The news that Hirvonen is coming home will bring a smile to the face of many a rally fan. The flying Finn started his WRC career with Ford and M-Sport in 2003, enjoying eight years behind the wheel of Blue Oval cars.
Instrumental in securing Ford’s back-to-back manufacturers’ titles in 2006 and 2007, Hirvonen finished as runner-up in the drivers’ championship on four separate occasions and missed out on the 2009 title by a single point.
Since parting ways with M-Sport in 2012, both he and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen have remained a popular crew in the eyes of the M-Sport family, and their homecoming brings a real enthusiasm for the season ahead.
“To be back in a Ford Fiesta RS WRC, it really feels as though I am coming home,” said Hirvonen. “The last two years were really good for myself and Jarmo but although we will take a lot of good memories with us, we didn’t necessarily achieve what we set out to do. 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.
“There are definitely some rallies that we will be targeting. We know that the Fiesta is competitive on every surface, but Sweden and Finland are two rallies that I particularly enjoy. Ultimately however, I want to be in a position to fight throughout the entire season. I want to be a contender for the championship, and at M-Sport, we can achieve that.”
Occupying the seat of the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, is one of rallying’s most promising up-and-coming young talents, Elfyn Evans from Wales.
The youngster started his career with the Ford and M-Sport in 2007, winning the Ford Fiesta SportTrophy series in both the UK and Ireland. Progressing from the Ford Fiesta ST to the globally successful Ford Fiesta R2, it was not long before he was a regular on the WRC stage – winning the 2012 FIA WRC Academy Cup with a dominant display on both gravel and asphalt. The WRC 2 category swiftly followed with some inspired performances behind the wheel of the Ford Fiesta R5.
“It is an absolutely fantastic feeling to know that I will be driving a world rally car for a full season next year,” Evans 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 my co-driver Dan Barritt to really progress within the team. The great thing about this programme is that it gives us time. The whole team is behind us and we have a long-term plan to get to where we all, ultimately, want to be. This is just the first step and I am extremely grateful to Malcolm [Wilson] and M-Sport for this opportunity and their belief in my future.”
M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson, said Hirvonen and Evans represent a perfect blend of youth and experience, adding: “Mikko has always been a very popular member of the team. He has done well here in the past, and he provides us with the potential to battle for victories at a number of events throughout the year. We all know what he is capable of behind the wheel of a Fiesta, and he has lost none of his ambition and determination to win.
“I am also delighted to announce that Elfyn will partner Mikko in the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC. I have no doubt that he is ready for this opportunity. Over the course of the season, he proved that he has both the mental strength and speed to learn whilst securing some very strong results. I am looking forward to seeing how he develops, and although we are not expecting him to challenge for any wins this season, his talent could certainly spring a few surprises. We have a long-term plan for Elfyn and Dan and this is just the first step along the path to championship success.”