Mikko Hirvonen says that he will be driving flat out during the remaining two days of Rally Finland after his victory hopes were dashed by a problem-strewn opening trio of stages to the rally.
The Finn, who was chasing his second victory in the event after his win in 2009, ended the opening leg in 36th place and two minutes off the lead in his Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team Fiesta RS WRC. This after he hit a tree on the opening stage following a loss of drive, which caused brake and suspension damage which delayed him through the remaining two tests before overnight service.
“The engine died midway through a fast, fifth gear left corner and without any drive the car slid wide and the rear right hit a tree,” he said. “The impact damaged the brakes and suspension.
“Those issues caused more problems in the next stage and about 5km from the finish, the brake calliper jammed between the wheel and the damper. The wheel dragged all the way to the end, puncturing the tyre.”
“It’s disappointing because it’s the second year in a row that I’ve had problems early in my home rally, although last year was due to a crash,” he said. “I wanted to fight for a win and after a strong test last week, I felt that was something I could achieve. All I can do now is drive flat out through the final two days and see how far I can climb back up the order.”
His teammate Jari-Matti Latvala remains in the hunt for his second Rally Finland victory on his 100th WRC start, lying third overall with a better road position for Friday than those ahead of him.
“During the second stage the team sent a message into the car giving me a target time to ensure I was third in the start order tomorrow,” said Latvala. “I slowed down towards the finish to make sure I achieved that target and the plan worked perfectly. I’m happy with my position for the morning.
“I was cautious on the opening stage and made a couple of small mistakes on the final test but nothing that cost time. All I’m concentrating on is tomorrow as I don’t want to put extra pressure on myself, because this rally brings enough of that already. There was great excitement and pressure before the start, but now the event is under way I can relax and focus on my driving.”
Team principal Malcolm Wilson said: “We suffered a setback very early when Mikko had problems, but Jari-Matti is in a perfect position after we implemented a strategy to give him the best chance tomorrow.
“There are two long and tricky days remaining, and for Mikko it’s an opportunity to show everyone his speed and see how many positions he can pull back.”