2 JANUARY 18 2012 motorsport-news.co.uk
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“We’ll never be scared to take risks”
P4 McLaren’s battle plan won’t involve safe strategy
SILVERSTONE’S 24-HOUR SHOWPIECE SAVED
The Britcar 24 Hours will run after noise agreement
RALLY GB TO HEAD BACK DOWN SOUTH
British WRC round’s base will return to South Wales
WORLD RALLYING GEARS UP FOR ITS MOST DRAMATIC SHOWDOWN YET
MN previews the epic Ford vs Citroën vs Mini fight
Historic race and rally news
Highlights:Autosport International 18 Insight:TheWatkins Lecture 22 Profile:Ben Edwards,F1’s new voice 23 WRC Preview:Latvala’s chance 24 WRC Preview:Breen gets set 26 WRC Preview:Hirvonen’s role 27 WRC Preview:Monte memories 28 WRC Preview:Team guide 30 Sporting Scene round-up 32 Karting round-up 34 Letters/Comment/What’s On 36 SUBSCRIBETOMOTORSPORTNEWS 38 Wanted:new feet – the concrete floor of the NEC is very unforgiving...
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Reigning champion Sébastien Loeb thinks
By James Attwood Eight-time world champion Sébastien Loeb says that the fact he hasn’t competed on Rally Monte Carlo for three years could hamper him this week.
The Citroën ace has won the classic rally five times in his career, but hasn’t competed on the south of France stages since the event switched from the World Rally Championship to the Intercontinental Rally Challenge in 2009. While Loeb admitted he will start as favourite for the event he said: “It’s three years since I last competed in the rally. I don’t doubt myability to be on the pace, since we haven’t really stopped since the end of last season. But this event is so specific, you can never be sure of anything.”
Tyre dilemma Loeb and former team-mate Sébastien Ogier proved last season that Citroën’s DS3WRCis the car to beat on Tarmac events. TheMonte Carlo Rally can often become a lottery due to snow and ice on the stages, although reports from the recce earlier this week suggested the stages were largely dry.
Because of the risk of wintry conditions, crews will have amuch wider tyre choice than usual this weekend, and Loeb says that could allow crews to spring a surprise.
“With five types of tyre – three slicks, one snow tyre and one studded tyre –we’ll have a fairly wide range of options available to us. Even if we don’t get wintry conditions, just being able to choose between three types of slicks with varying compounds could create huge gaps.”
Loeb’s assertion was borne out by last year’s event. The event ran in dry conditions until a flurry of snow for two stages on the second day. Peugeot driver Bryan Bouffier gambled on snow tyres and vaulted from seventh position into the lead. He held on to win the event.
Loeb added that the WRCwill be boosted by having Monte Carlo as its opening round. He said: “For me, it’s a no-brainer: Monte Carlo has to be in the world championship. It is the world’s most famous rally; you just can’t have aworld championship without it. The roads are enjoyable to drive and there is always a great roadside atmosphere.”
Loeb:Mikko will help Loeb has also praised his new teammateMikko Hirvonen. The Finn was Loeb’s closest title rival last year while driving for the Ford squad, but
Loeb says new tyre rules could be vital to Monte pace is expected to play a number two role with the French team.
Last year Loeb was paired with countryman Sébastien Ogier, and Ogier’s reluctance to play second fiddle created huge tension within the squad.
Loeb said: “I’ve only ever known Mikko as a rival, so it’s nice to be working on the same side now.
“We get onwell and I think we have a lot of respect for one another. We’ll have to change our working habits a little and communicate in English, but I think that is a fairly positive thing.
“For the time being, we have the same feeling about the car, but that was already the case with my previous team-mate.
“Hirvonen has lots of rally experience and he has moved from a [Ford] team with a very fast car. I’m sure hewill bring new ideas on board at Citroën and that will help us to improve.”
WHAT’S CHANGED FOR 2012
Sébastien Loeb is still at Citroën, but there’s been plenty of change in the rest of theWRC.Here are some notable changes:
CITROËN IN Mikko Hirvonen OUT Sébastien Ogier
IN Yves Matton OUT Olivier Quesnel
FORD IN Petter Solberg OUT Mikko Hirvonen
IN Two-year WRC commitment OUT Abu Dhabi sponsorship
MINI IN Rotating pay drivers OUT Kris Meeke (as a full-time driver)
VW IN Sébastien Ogier (in Fabia S2000)
THEWRC IN Eurosport as new WRC promoter OUT North One Sport, ESPN TV deal in the UK Classified advertising: 0208 267 5355
motorsport-news.co.uk JANUARY 18 2012 3
Monte Carlo opener will be a tough test
TYRE CHOICE WILL SHAKE UP MONTE
20 12 20 12
Ace Loeb hasn’t rallied in Monte Carlo for three years
Loe b a nd ne w t eam-mate Mikk o H ir vo nen will line up in the hug el y p otent Citr oën DS3
Post-Loeb planning Following the departure of Olivier Quesnel to a new role at Peugeot Sport, Citroën has appointed Yves Matton as its new team principal.
Themove is likely to be a boost to Loeb, as reports suggested that there was a difficult relationship between the driver and Quesnel. Matton has been tasked with maintaining Citroën’s domination of the WRC, and also preparing the team to cope without Loeb –who is under contract until the end of 2013 – in the future. Ogier had been expected to take on the role of team leader once Loeb retired, but his
Matton will aim for Citroën lock-out
ALSOALSOTHIS IN THIS IN ISSUEISSUE
departure to VWhassparked a new talent search.
“Citroën has won both the manufacturers’ and drivers’ titles for the last four seasons,” said Matton. “The target is to keep this record going thanks to our strengths: the DS3WRC, our driver pairing and a closely knit team supporting them.
“That’s the easy part. In addition,
I have to work on the ‘post
Sébastien Loeb’ issue. Although I was not involved in the agreement, the arrival of [former IRC star] Thierry Neuville in the team will help us to prepare for the future by training up a promising driver.”
14 JANUARY 18 2012 motorsport-news.co.uk
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FordWorld Rally Team chief Malcolm Wilson and the Blue Oval’s European motorsport boss Gerard Quinn unveiled the striking new 2012 livery for the Fiesta RSWRC onMN’s British Rally Heroes stand at Autosport International on Thursday
Broadcaster steps in for the short-term and could become the new promoter of the world championship EUROSPORT’SWRCRESCUE
ByDanMcCalla Leading World Rally Championship figures have backed Eurosport to help the championship recover from its crisis, with the TV network believed to be close to a deal to become the sport’s promoter.
The WRChasbeen left without a promoter after North One Sport went into administration last week on the back of the collapse of a proposed Qatari investment deal. Eurosport has stepped in to ensure that the season-opening Rally Monte Carlo, which starts today (Wednesday) is televised. It could become the full-time promoter, although the role is unlikely to be as far-reaching as the deal North One Sport had to promote the series.
Road map to success TheFIA is in discussions with Eurosport about taking on the promotion role for what sources say is a three-year period.
Ford team boss Malcolm Wilson said that North One Sport had a plan in place on how to improve the WRCthathad garnered broad support from all parties involved in the series before it went into receivership. Wilson is hopeful that whichever firm does take over as promoter works with the FIA to implement that plan.
“The FIA now know the roadmap, because it was presented to us by North One before Christmas, and everybody was happy with what was presented to us,” he told Motorsport News. “We’ve got that and we’ve got to all work together with the FIA and the key stakeholders to make sure we can get back onto that roadmapas quickly as possible. It was looking good fromwhat wewere presented with– it waswhat every manufacturer was looking for. It would have
Wilson:wants progress been that wewere finally wherewe wanted to be with TVand sponsorship. Hopefully now the FIAwill find away to get things implemented as soon as possible.”
FreeTV still needed? While nothing had been confirmed about Eurosport’s involvement beyond Rally Monte Carlo asMNclosed for press, it is likely that the firm will at least televise the series for the rest of this season.
Nonetheless, the WRC’s manufacturers still want terrestrial TVdeals to be set up as soon as possible – by the FIA if necessary if no promoter is in place to negotiate those deals.
Ford’s European motorsport chief Gerard Quinn said: “I’m looking for the FIA
to take the lead as they have made an assurance to Ford in finding a suitable solution.
Not just to suit the governing body, but to suit the organisers, manufacturers, competitors and fans. It’s important that they bring something to the sport that is significant, and that we get a good outreach of coverage in markets that are important to us such as the UKandGermany.”
Before its demise, North One Sport was working on a deal to get the WRConto ITV4 this season, andWilson says that even an extensive TVdeal with Eurosport still wouldn’t be enough to help bring the sport back to the general public’s attention.
“We need free-to-air TV. The deal that was on the table from ITV4 is exactly what we need, as we’ve had some poor TVcoverage in the last 12 months, so hopefully that deal can be resurrected,” he said.
A golden opportunity? TheWRChas suffered in recent years from a lack of long-term direction, with regulations and concepts for the future changing regularly. For manyparties, such as event organisers, it has made building a sustainable and successful rally difficult. Andrew Coe, chief executive of Rally GBorganiser International Motor Sports, believes the change of promoter gives the WRCachance to set a fixed strategy for the future. “This is a chance for us to start again with this sport,” Coe told MN. “We can now have a root-and-branch review of what this sport should be, starting with the fundamentals. We’ve been heading in several different directions for the last ten years.
“I haven’t felt this positive about our business and the WRCfor at least five years. Everyone has got to have some input on how it looks in the future. It’d allow us to do what we think works for our event, and we proved that it works last year. Wedid four days north-to-south within a small country and our ticket sales were well up. What does that tell you? Weneed to use a business model that takes the sport to people –very few other sports can do that.”
EUROSPORT’S MONTE TV TIMES >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> PAGE 37
The Strength of Experience
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LOEB’S MONTE CARLO FORM
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 DNF
Monte Carlo win W
First on the road, but later penalised for illegal tyre change
Third straight win in Xsara
Accident ends victory bid, but uses SupeRally to rejoin
Victory on C4 WRC debut
Event debut in Group A Saxo
Loeb’s Saxo debut in 2001 Frenchman: second in ’06 Loeb: victorious in 2007
motorspor t-ne ws .co .uk JANU AR Y 18 20 12 25
Photos: mc klein-imagedatabase.com
24 JANU AR Y 18 20 12 motorspor t-ne ws .co .uk
WRC SEAS ON PREVIEW
Jari-Matti Latv ala has ov ercome the lows to prov eh is potential and become Fo rd’s team leader THE LAST BIG STEP
Latv ala stunned with a win on Wa les Rall y GB in 2011
Po lish accident wa s a lo w point fo r Fo rd and Latv ala
BY DAN McC ALLA RALL Y EDIT OR
Itur ned into the bend too quickl ya nd clipped the bar rel. It’ st he bigg est mistak eo f m yc areer and I’v el et do wn the team and damag ed Fo rd’s dre am of wi nn in gt he manufacturers’ titl I’ du nderstand if they don ’t want months, and Latvala enters the 2012 Wo rl d Rally Championship not only as ac hanged man, but also as pretty much the only man wh oc an stop Sébastien Loeb winning the title ye ta ga in.
“If we gotwoa nd ah alf years back, my situation was not so gr eat, Ih ad just done al ot of mistak es ,” remembers the experienced Latv ala, still only 26.“I was on the bottom and ve ry frustrated. But no wt he situation is dif ferent so it feels reall yg ood. But also Ih av eb een happ yt os ee that there has been prog ress because without that my rally career wo uld ha ve fou rthi nthepoints dueto ab ad runof for m in the spring (w hich wasn ’t wh olly of his ow nmaking), but starred in winning the season-closing Rally GBand, tellingly ,w on more stag es in 2011 than any one else .
No wt helead dri verf orthe first time in his career ,L atva la ha st heoppor tunity to put a stamp on the Fo rd te am ,a nd has alread y star ted to push through tw eaks hefeels wo uld benefit the Fiesta RSWR C.
“W eg ot av erygood package and to wards the endof 2011 we got ar eally good confidence with the car with the reliability . But no wi t’ sd if ficult to do any more with h s its just modifications and so centimetres lo we rn ow than Id id atthe beginning of 2011, so the we ight balance is lo we r. I’m also sitting further back to get the we ight nearer the centre .
“A tt hebeginning of 2011 Iw as sitting a little bit too high and it’ sb een possible to go lo we rb yc hanging seat brack ets and so on. It is al ittle bit on the limit sometimes as yougo over crests youhav etob uck your head up a bit. Mikk oc ouldn ’t goso lo ww ith the seat because I’m al ot taller than him, so Ih av e that possibility no wt ot ry this and get the we ight balance lo we r. ”
Of course ,Latva la is lu ck yt hat he’ ss till a fa ctory wo rl dr ally dri vera ta ll. After
R l l G B h ea nd ever yonewithin in Finland and it came just af ew days be fore Iw as lea ving for my holidayt rip so it was very good news.Iw as actually lea ving a Fo rd Fi nl an dd inner and Ih eard the news wh enMalcolm rang me .
“Itwas ab ig relief for the team but more impor tantly for the wh ole championship . Fo rd for mewa ss av ing the championship – without Fo rd th echampionship wo uld ha ve died. Citroën wo uld ha ve been there but they wo uld proba blyh av eb een dominating it even more than they ha ve done no wa nd then people wo uld ha ve lost interest completely .Wek new VW was coming but for If elt that Fo rd wa sd oing ab ig fa vourfor the Wo rl dR ally Championship .”
t l ill also ha ve to deal aw or ld champion and he’ san umber tw o dri ver. It’ sab it of as trange situation, but he has been running three years as ap ri va teer so thisis ag ood chance for him no ww hen he can jump in the factory car .
“P ersonally Iw ant to wo rk to gether as a team and Id on ’t want to think aboutwh o’ s num be ro neand number two. Iw ant us to wo rk as we ll to gether as we could, Iw ant to be open with things .If elt that in 2010 wh enI was number twof orMikkoIw as still ab le to win rallies .There’ ss till ac hance for Pe tter to win rallies.S om yp oint is that we are in an equal situation and we can both discuss and do things we ll to gether .”
Latv ala admitted that hewas surprised wh enHirv onen decided to jump ship to th ’ n oreason wh yh e there was some moments at the endof 2011 there was dif ficult to find ag ood feeling for the dri ving. There we re some rallies ,l ik e Fr ance and Spain, wh erehewas not at his nor mal le vel. Change can also bea moti va tion boost. There’ sd if ferent things and youl ear nb ecause there’ sad if ferent wayo f d oing things in aw ay .”
There is no doubt that Latv ala no wh as the speed,the consistenc ya nd the equipment to mount as erious title challenge .H is speed on asphalt in France and Spain last October pro ve dt hat hecan no wf ight for victories on all surfaces, and he’ sf ully aw are of that fact. More of the same for mwith wh ich heended the 2011 season will mak ehim as erious threa tt o Loeb’ sm onopoly of the WR Cd ri vers’ title . ing is that
Wilson nev er lost faith in Latvala despite tough times
Ja ri-Matti Latv ala has become the centre piece of the Fo rd te am th an ks to an as so ci ati on wi th MSp or tt hat stretches back to 2002, wh en he was a fresh-faced 17-y ear -old. Although the Finn is fir mf riends with his for mer team-mate Mikk oH irv onen, it was by outshining Hirv onen on at est that got him his tick et to stardom.
“It came through Timo Jo ukhi, at a time wh en Ir eally wanted to in ve st in an ew yo ung dri ve r, ”s ay sM alcolm Wi lson. “J ari was only 17 at the time, and I’ dh eard of him. Is pok et oT imo about eva luating Mikk oa nd he mentioned Ja ri as we ll. It old him to d t ook a should do the British championship in an older -spec Fo cus WR C. ” Wi lson feels ag reat deal of personal satisfaction in ge tting Latv ala to the point wh ere he is aw or ld title contender ,e ve nt hrough Latv ala’ s rocky run in the 2009 season.
“I’ ve al wa ys felt from the first time he dro ve the car that he wo uld one da y be wo rl dc hampion. The only thing that didn’ tw or ko ut as Ip lanned was that Marcus Grönholm retired 12 months sooner than It hought he wo uld. Iw ould ha ve lik ed Ja ri to ha ve had another ye ar in the Stobar tt eam free of pressure. He made ag reat star t in Sw eden, but then he had ac ouple of t B tIl ove
LATVALA’S PLAN TO BEAT LOEB P24
TO HOW TO HOW PREPARE
HOW TO PREPARE FOR THE MONTE
THE FOR MONTE
26 JANUARY 18 2012 motorsport-news.co.uk
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WRC SEASON PREVIEW
BY DANMcCALLA RALLY EDITOR
here is no rally like Rally Monte Carlo. One of the toughest rallies in World Rally Championship history, definitely
Photos: www.mcklein-imagedatabase.com and IRC Series
MonteCarlo is back in theWRCandCraigBreenknowsitwillmakeforahardseason-opener TOUGHEST
season-opener hard a for make will it knows Breen Craig and WRC the in back is Carlo Monte season-opener hard a for make will it knows Breen Craig and WRC the in back is Carlo Monte TOUGHEST TOUGHESTEST T
the toughest in the modern-day WRCandanabsolutenightmare for the uninitiated to prepare for – even if you’re an accomplished driver.
Just ask Craig Breen, whomaybe the reigning WRCAcademychampion,but this week will tackle the Monte for the first time in his Ford Fiesta Super 2000 as part of his SWRCcampaign.
“It is very difficult to prepare for,” says the 21-year-old, who has experience of all of the other events in which hewill drive in 2012. “I worked as ice crew for DanBarry the first time he did the rally [in 2010] so I’ve got a bit of knowledge – maybe not so muchfroma competitor’s point of view. I’ve been working my backside off since Rally GB to try and get as muchdepth as possible and get as manyopinions as I can. The most important thing I’ve been trying to find out is the conditions, and as far as I can see at the moment it’s going to be relatively snow-free in the northern regions. I’m presuming it’ll be amainly dry event with some snow once we get down towards Monaco.
“We haven’t done anymajor testing for the rally. The S2000 car was completely rebuilt after Rally GBandwehad to do the first bit and then wait to complete it until we’d fully decided that wewere going to use our own car this season, whichwe didn’t do until just before Christmas. It was finished upwith everything brand-new on the car ten days ago, and I’ve only driven it up and down the road to warmeverything up.”
That quest for information doesn’t just stop at Breen. Monte Carlo represents the ultimate challenge for co-drivers as well and Breen’s navigator Gareth Roberts has been doing the same.
“It helps having aWelshman sat beside measwell because he’s got a vast book full of contacts that he can call upon and get his own information,” Breen adds. “It’s the little things like odd corners on certain stages, or areas that are north-facing that don’t get any sunlight and so aremore likely to be icy. All those little bits and pieces add up.”
The one aspect of Rally Monte Carlo that makes it such a supremely difficult rally to win is the sheer unpredictability of the weather, and last year’s field found this out in the most extreme way possible. A sudden blizzard on the second afternoon caught out most of the field and ultimately decided the rally in Bryan Bouffier’s favour, even though the rest of the rally ran on dry Tarmac.
the on blizzard sudden A possible.
the of most out caught afternoon second decided ultimately and field
Bouffier’s Bryan in rally the rest the though even favour,
dry on ran rally the of
Bouffier won rally in 2011
This is something Breen is well aware of. While he has plenty of knowledge of Tarmac rallying from his early days, and has also competed on snow in Sweden, those two won’t necessarily go hand-in-hand if it snows this week.
“The only thing remotely similar to the Monte for me is bits of Galway on occasion where it can get a bit icy when the weather is bad. But I’ve never done anything really like Monte Carlo where you can go from a full Tarmac rally to a a to rally Tarmac full a from go can you full snow rally in a a in rally snow full handful of of handful corners. It’s a new challenge for me, but the whole season is a new challenge.
“MyTarmac experience will help. If you look at the SWRCthen P-G Andersson and Giandomenico Basso will both be quite fast there, but it should be bumpy and in that respect having the background of Irish tarmac should be a benefit. The roads on the Monte are fast and flowing, and that’s something that I’m very good at in terms of getting the lines right. Around every corner there can be a new challenge so you have to put a lot of trust in your ice crew.”
there corner every Around right. lines put to have you so challenge new a be can crew.” ice your in trust of lot a the for WRC the in running event, The
The event, running in the WRCfor the first time in four years, also brings an an brings also years, four in time first no crews: for challenge added
– stage first the on Crash SupeRally.
added challenge for crews: no SupeRally. Crash on the first stage – as AndreasMikkelsen did last year – and it’s game over. For a privateer such as Breen, that’s a big factor.
year last did Mikkelsen Andreas as –
factor. big a that’s Breen, as such
Irish ace Breen has limited experience on snow rallies
“Coming from a privateer’s point of view, if we crash on the first stage then that would be a disaster,” he says. “That would be a hell of a lot of money for me to throw away – I know that it’s myWRC Academyprize money, but I’d cry if I ended upwasting so muchlike that! The strategy needs to be a little bit different – there’s only four of us in SWRCsowe need to be careful because there’s a good chance to pick up some decent points here. But when you get to the start line there’s only one real thought going through your head, and that’s to push as hard as you can, given the conditions.”
Even in the sanitised world of the WRC, just finishing Rally Monte Carlo can still be considered a genuine achievement. Being in the mix for victory at the end is a different matter altogether. n for time no there’s that finds Breen champion Academy WRC New rally a you’re when break winter a together his 2012 campaign, receiving his Academychampion’s trophy at the FIA Gala in India and a special title celebration at home inWaterford.
New WRC Academy champion Breen finds that there’s no time for a winter break when you’re a rally Onceyou become a fully fledged world rally driver, there’s no such thing as an off-season. The marketing and PR commitments, as well as winter testing, mean that the job never really stops between campaigns. On the back of his WRCAcademytitle victory atWales Rally GB two months ago, that’s a lesson Craig Breen has suddenly learned, after an off-season that has included hurriedly putting the Monte. It’s tough but I’m relishing every minute of it.” On top of all that, Breenwas selected for the FIA Institute Academy’s 2012 intake just days after his title success, and the courses and seminars that the scheme entails has added an even more intensive workload. But Breen says he’s already reaping the rewards of it.
“It’s been horrendous since Rally GB– I did about 20 flights in amonth afterwards!,” says Breen. “I can’t complain because I’ve had an incredible reception, but it was non-stop until the week before Christmas, and then we started up again early to get ready for
“I didn’t get to go to the last course in Chamonix this month because I was getting ready for the Monte but the first course in Edinburgh was really useful,” adds Breen. “It was all about fitness and nutrition, which you’d think wouldn’t be so important in rallying but at an event like Monte Carlo you’ve got ten days from pre-event test to rally finish. The benefits of the right food at the right time can be huge. Some bits of the course will bemorebeneficial to racers, but you have to take in what you can.”
Breen clinched title on Rally GB
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Aces: Loeb (l) and Hirvonen motorsport-news.co.uk JANUARY 18 2012 27
Hir vo nen lost 2011 title after accident damag e d espite his fr antic re pairs
BYDAN McCALLA RALLY EDITOR
The understudy. It is nigh-on impossible to viewMikko Hirvonen as anything else going into the 2012 WRC season.
The 31-year-old Finn has ended his long association with Ford to jump ship to Citroën this year, taking the seat vacated by Sébastien Ogier. He joins eight-time world champion Sébastien Loeb in a team very muchwanting stability after its tumultuous 2011 season. Hirvonen has no titles, only one win on gravel in the last two years and will even carry the number two on his DS3 this season. With even Jari-Matti Latvala referring to his friend and former team-mate as a number two driver, Hirvonen clearly faces an uphill task to convince people otherwise.
But Hirvonen certainly isn’t about to give up the fight, and isn’t worried about people’s perceptions of his status within the French outfit. “It doesn’t bother me at all,” he says. “I’m new in the team and in away I like the situation the way it is. I like being able to have a bit of time to get to learn the team, without having the pressure of fighting or anything. It’s a similar feeling to the position I was in working with Marcus [Grönholm] at Ford. It’s nice to be able to workwith Sébastien as well – after all, he’s an eighttime world champion now, so like Marcus I’m sure there are things I can pick up from him. Slowly I’ll get onto the pace, find myplace in the team and help them fight for the manufacturers’ championship.” AsmuchasHirvonen has been a loyal servant to the factory Ford team over the last six years, there was only so long that he could wait last year on a team that didn’t confirm its renewed works backing until mid-December. With Hirvonen out of contract, hewas in a difficult position, and as it turned out, he joined Ogier as a driver who didn’t seal a Ford contract due to the long delay in the Blue Oval’s commitment.
“Everybody knows that by the end of last year mycontract with Ford was running out andMalcolm [Wilson] was having some difficult times,” he says. “It still wasn’t clear what was happening with him and Ford. Wewere waiting and waiting, but at the same time the opportunity came up to join Citroën and for sure it was tempting. All the time we’ve always been joking about getting the opportunity to drive the Citroën car and see how it was. The opportunity came up and there was still no certainty with Ford, and I thought it was time to try something different andmove on. There was no real cut-off point with Ford. For sure we tried for a long time to find out what happened, but then
Hirvonen likes it now the pressure is off
I didn’t want to lose the opportunity with Citroën either.
“We decided that for this year that this was the best way to go, and I have to say that so far I’m very pleased with the way things have gone. French and English people are always going to be a little different, but I’ve been very impressed with them. The car is very good as well, but I hadmyownunderstanding of how a French team was likely to work, and I’ve been proved completely wrong about that. I thought it would be difficult to get into it with the language barrier and everything, but I’ve been made very welcome.” Although Hirvonen has been able to bed himself into the team quickly, he hasn’t had so muchtime to ask his new team-mate about the DS3WRC.Loeb has had a busy schedule of promotional activities and testing over the short close-season, and so Hirvonen has largely had to draw his own conclusions during the test programme.
“To be honest, Sébastien and I have both been running around the world over the Christmas break, so there hasn’t been the time for me to talk to him about the car so muchas yet. There’s been a lot of contact with the engineer and the mechanics, and we have a similar view about the feel of the car.
“Testing is good because you get to know the roads and so on, but at the end of the day it’s still a car. It still has a steering wheel and pedals like the Fiesta. There’s a lot of things where the car is working a bit differently and it’ll take time to get to learn all those tricks.”
Even though he is in a new car, Hirvonen will be expected to be right among the leaders when Rally Monte Carlo gets underway, partly thanks to his experience from the 2010 event, which hewon in the then-new Ford Fiesta S2000. But he thinks it’ll take him longer than that to get up to speed, and says his main goal for the year is to make sure Citroën bring home the manufacturers’ title for the fifth year in succession.
“I hope I just survive Monte Carlo to start with. For sure I want to get a good result but it is going to be challenging and everything is going to be new. I don’t think I’ll have the confidence to push to the maximum,” he says. “I want to get to start the season with good points, and then move on and get faster and stronger by the end of the year. I’m glad I won that rally in 2010, but I don’t think it gives me any leverage for this year. One good thing is that most of the stages are similar so I have the notes ready, but this year is going to be a different story.”
As for his aspirations, Hirvonen hopes that he can forge a longterm bond with the French marque. With so manyyoung talents knocking on the WRC door, hemay not get another chance after this one. “You never knowwhat’s going to happen in life.
“But what I’ve seen so far has been fantastic, so why not?” n
NOT JUST A NUMBER
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Hirvonen says hewill increase his pacewithmore seat time
Ne w re cr uit is re lishing the chance to dr ive the Citr oën
MIKKO HIRVONEN INTERVIEW P27
MIKKO MIKKO HIRVONEN INTERVIEW P27
WRAPS COME OFF NEW FORD FIESTA WRC LIVERY ON PAGE 14