2 NOVEMBER 23 2011 motorsport-news.co.uk
IN THIS ISSUE
THE VOICE OF BRITISH MOTORSPORT ISSUE JA2797
“I have shown the pace to be in F1”
P5 Jean-Eric Vergne topped the young driver F1 testing
WORLD TOURING CARS LOOK TO KNOCKHILL
Scottish track could replace English date in 2012
MIKKELSEN TARGETS BACK-TO-BACK TITLES WITH SKODA
IRC star sets up title defence after renewing deal
BOGIE’S EARLY SURGE HELPS HIM NET BRITISH RALLY CROWN
Read how Bogie triumphed in our full BRC review
SUBSCRIBETOMOTORSPORTNEWS 12 Historic race and rally news 13 Insight:MalcolmWilson 18 Interview:Matt Neal 21 Insight:Historic long hauls 23 Review:British Rally Championship 24 Champions:Paul Rivett 29 Racing reports 31 Rally reports 31 Sporting Scene round-up 32 Karting round-up 34 Letters/Comment/What’s On 36 Classified 37 Wanted:A‘Hard Luck’award for heroism at Macau.Apply:Rob Huff
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M-Sport boss says that Mikko Hirvonen
WILSON: A PERECT
By James Attwood Mikko Hirvonen will be a “perfect supporting driver” to Sébastien Loeb next year, according to the Finn’s former team boss Malcolm Wilson.
The 31-year-old Finn was officially unveiled as Loeb’s Citroën team-mate last week, sparking a huge shake-up in the World Rally Championship driver market. Hirvonen, who finished runner-up to Loeb in this year’s title race, has signed a twoyear deal with Citroën to replace Sébastien Ogier.
The deal means the end of the occasionally fractious intra-team battle between Loeb and Ogier. It also means Ogier, whowon five events this year, is currently a free agent. Both VWandFord –which has yet to commit to next year’s WRC–are in the hunt for his services.
Hirvonen’s switch Hirvonen has driven for the Ford works team since 2006, and has been its lead driver since Marcus Grönholm retired at the end of 2007. Hirvonen has been one of Loeb’s closest rivals, finishing runner-up in the points to the French ace in 2008, ’09 and this season.
Citroën had Ogier under contract until the end of the 2013 season, but his departure has been expected since Loeb re-signed with the squad for another two years earlier this year (MN, August 24).
Team boss Olivier Quesnel said: “We’re very happy to welcome Mikko Hirvonen and [co-driver] Jarmo Lehtinen. They’ve been our toughest rivals over the last four seasons and we’re really looking forward to our future collaboration. Mikko is a talented driver and his consistency will be a big help in our fight to retain the manufacturers’ title.”
Loeb stays, but nemesis Ogier needs another ride
Ford had an option onHirvonen’s contract for next season, but hewas free to leave because the marque has yet to commit to the WRCfor 2012, and so did not exercise the option. Wilson, whowasHirvonen’s team boss at Ford, reckons that the
Finn will diffuse the tension at Citroën next year. He told WRC.com: “Everybody knows he can play the perfect supporting role, which is what he did for us in 2006 and 2007.
It’s very clear what the strategy is [at Citroën] and
Where will Ogier go next?
who their number one is. It will will It is.
Gooffi so m so me n a h uff where interesting to see but whatever happens Mikko will do a fantastic job. Hewas the only one who could take the title fight to Sébastien inWales, and that also happened in 2009.”
Because Hirvonen is under contract to Ford until the end of the year, he is unable to speak publicly about the switch. After the movewas announced he posted a message on Twitter that said: “It’s been a pleasure working with everyone at Ford andM-Sport. We have a new challenge now. Thank you for the memories.”
Ogier’s options Themain focus of the WRCdriver market nowwill be where Ogier Classified advertising: 0208 267 5355
motorsport-news.co.uk NOVEMBER 23 2011 3
will slot in to back-up role
HIRVONEN WILL BE ‘NUMBER TWO’
Citroën fears a lack of major opposition Citroën team chief Olivier Quesnel fears a major backward step in the WRC should Ford pull its factory backing, because he doesn’t want his squad to lack serious opposition.
NO T BAD FOR A NUMBER TW O. .. Mikk o Hir vo nen and Sébastien Ogier compared
HIR VO NEN CA TEGOR Y O GIER
PO DIUMS 14 212 ST AG EW INS 10 7 0 TITLE S 0
Mikk o Hir vo nen will line up alongside Loe b fo r 2012
Citroën and Ford have dominated the WRC in recent years, and have combined to win every championship round since Subaru’s last success on Rally GB in September 2005. With Mini still developing its John Cooper Works WRC programme and VW not due to enter until 2013, Citroën would dominate if Ford didn’t commit to the WRC. Quesnel says the French marque’s marketing image is much stronger when it is seeing off its rivals. “This is a problem,” he told MN. “I am worried because when you see Mini coming in, Volkswagen coming in, Citroën still here, you think things are in a good way.
“We have rumours – and I hope these are only rumours – that Ford have some problems. I hope it won’t be the case and I am anxious about that. We need other manufacturers, not only for Citroën but for the WRC.
OUT! IN !
“We need a lot of manufacturers, so I am hopeful that Ford will be there and Mini too.”
Quesnel wants a fight
Quesnel wants a fight ends up. The 27-year-old has taken seven rally wins in his three full seasons driving a Citroën World Rally Car, and has been the only team-mate who has been consistently able to match or beat Loeb. That has caused plenty of friction within the Citroën squad, with Loeb going as far as claiming the team was favouring his younger team-mate earlier this year.
In a release issued by Citroën, Quesnel said: “Seeing Sébastien and [co-driver] Julien Ingrassia leave strikes an emotional chord in the whole team. Citroën Racing trained them, first of all in the JWRC and then in the Citroën Junior Team.” Ogier’s two options are likely to be to sign with Ford/M-Sport, or the nascent Volkswagen programme.
Ogier’s manager Kim Vatanen told Motorsport News: “I can’t comment too much right now on what we’re doing next year because we have to wait for all the official announcements involved. We have something lined up for next year. We may be able to announce something in the next week or two.”
Ford tried to poach Ogier last season, a move that effectively forced Citroën to give him equal number one status with Loeb and sparked much of the tension between the two this season. While Ford seemed a natural destination for Ogier, in what would effectively be a straight swap with Hirvonen, the fact the marque has yet to commit for 2012 would prevent any deal being done. That could be a big stumbling block to Ogier, who would be able to command a sizeable salary.
Team boss Wilson said: “Everybody knows we did make an approach to Sébastien last year. I would definitely like to field the strongest driver line-up that I can, but there are a lot of things still to be taken into consideration. The biggest one is obviously the fees.” When asked if he has offered Ogier a drive for 2012, Wilson said: “No, because I’m not in a position to offer him a deal. There’s no secret we’ve talked and had discussions but I’m not in a position to do that.” Volkswagen would be able to offer Ogier a substantial salary, and is keen to sign a top-level driver to develop its new Polo WRC. But the German marque is not planning to enter the series until
2013, which means that Ogier would face a season on the sidelines.
It is possible he could tackle the Super 2000 World Rally Championship in a VW-run Skoda Fabia S2000, but the Frenchman would likely view this as a step back, and it would be a risk to skip a season of competition when he is entering his prime. AVWspokesperson told MNthat the marque wasn’t planning a driver announcement until the start of December, but that they were in negotiations with drivers.
Ford’s other options Jari-Matti Latvala is signed to Ford for next season, and has committed to staying with M-Sport even if the marque doesn’t commit to the WRC
(MN, November 9). The Finn is arguably the fastest driver in the WRC, and finished runner-up to Loeb in 2010. This year a series of early incidents ended his title hopes, but he was faster than Hirvonen for much of the season.
If Ford committed to the WRC for next season but couldn’t sign Ogier, the team could promote a driver from the M-Sport run Stobart squad. Mads Østberg has impressed in a Fiesta WRC this year, and could also bring some backing to the team. Evgeny Novikov also drove a privateer Fiesta this season, and drove his car in works colours as part of Team Abu Dhabi on the Rally GB season finale. However, while the Russian has plenty of speed, he is prone to accidents and lacks experience. Additional reporting by Dan McCalla
MALCOLM WILSON SPEAKS TO MN ON PAGE 18