2009 WRC runner-up Mikko Hirvonen got his year off to the perfect start after winning the Monte Carlo Rally, now part of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC), in an M-Sport built S2000 spec Ford Fiesta.
Hirvonen, along with regular co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen, won three of the rally's fifteen stages on surfaces that ranged from dry tarmac to heavy lying snow and everything in between, during the day and night.
“The Monte Carlo Rally is one of the world’s great rallies and it’s a big thrill to win here,” said Hirvonen. “It was a long, hard event and the conditions made the challenge even tougher. This car is brand new to competition but everything worked perfectly from the first kilometre. That’s a tribute to the whole team, and particularly the people who put in so much effort over the last two weeks.”
That team was Malcolm Wilson's M-Sport squad, who also run the Focus Mikko is more familiar with in the WRC.
Wilson watched the final stage of the rally from the service park, arranged around Monaco's harbour-side Grand Prix circuit. There were nervous moments for the team as the on-board camara on the Fiesta failed, making them wait until the end of the stage to confirm the win.
“It’s a dream debut for our new Fiesta S2000,” he said. “We led from the first stage to the last and didn’t experience a single problem, which is hugely encouraging for a new car. Mikko drove at exactly the pace he needed to win and his feedback will be crucial in our further development of the Fiesta.”
In TV interviews Wilson all but ruled out Hirvonen making another IRC appearance this year but described how the team had several potential customers, making the Fiesta a potential IRC regular in the years to come.
“I’m delighted to see the Ford Fiesta S2000 winning such a prestigious event as the Monte Carlo Rally. The fact the car won its debut rally is a testament to the continued strong relationship between Ford and M-Sport and the companies share great technical expertise in developing rally cars,” said Gerard Quinn, Ford's European Motorsport Chief.
“The strength and reliability so evident in the Fiesta road car have provided the perfect base from which to develop the Fiesta S2000.”
The Finn took the world famous event by one minutes fifty-one seconds ahead of countryman Juho Hanninen in a Skoda.
Frenchman Stehpane Sarrazin was the top Peugeot after Sebastien Ogier's comeback drive was ended by an engine problem on the road section before stage fourteen. Jan Kopecky and Briton Guy Wilks put another two Skoda's in the points position with the Peugeots of Portuguese Bruno Magalhaes and Jean-Sebastien Vigion rounding out the top eight, the former not having driven on snow before preparing for the Monte.
Final Overall Standings
1. Hirvonen/Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta S2000) 4h 32m 58.5s
2. Hanninen/Markkula (Skoda Fabia S2000) +1m 51.4s
3. Vouilloz/Veillas (Skoda Fabia S2000) +3m 19.1s
4. Sarrazin/Renucci (Peugeot 207 S2000) +7m 25.5s
5. Kopecky/Stary (Skoda Fabia S2000) +8m 48.7s
6. Wilks/Pugh (Skoda Fabia S2000) +9m 24.5s
7. Magalhaes/Magalhaes (Peugeot 207 S2000) +9m 45.4s
8. Vigion/Prevot (Peugeot 207 S2000) +13m 33.5s