Spirits are high as the M-Sport World Rally Team advances on the fifth round of the FIA World Rally Championship: XION Rally Argentina. With Mikko Hirvonen having led the previous outing in Portugal, the squad is full of confidence and eager for further success.
Contested amongst some of the championship’s most challenging and diverse terrain, the Argentine fixture presents no easy task and the top positions will be hard fought. With passes through the Sierras Chicas, Valle de Calamuchita and Valle de Traslasierra, the gravel route offers a wealth of variation – narrow mountain tracks contrasting with open plains and dramatic moonlike vistas.
Incorporating some of the longest stages of the year, a good tempo for each variation is paramount. With no more than four traditional speed tests per day, those intent on victory can’t risk easing into a comfortable rhythm and that is sure to separate the men from the boys.
Crews also need to be 100 per cent confident behind the wheel – content in the knowledge that their car is set-up to deliver optimum performance over each aspect of the stages’ diverse character. This is something Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen used to their advantage in Portugal, and the pairing will be looking for more of the same next week.
The Finn insisted that when everything came together, he would be capable of challenging for rally wins and he proved that on the Algarve. Looking at one behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC, the M-Sport man looks set to continue that trend and truly make his mark on the championship.
Having contested the Argentine event on nine previous occasions, Hirvonen is keen to continue where he left off in Portugal – his experience of the route and his rejuvenated relationship with the Fiesta signalling the prospect of another strong result.
Mikko Hirvonen said:
“We were really happy with the result in Portugal, and we’ll be hoping for a bit more in Argentina. When everything is working well, we know that we have the car and the pace to be challenging at the top, and that is what we will be aiming for.
“It’s a tough event – even to be in the fight for the podium – but we will definitely be going all-out to do that. We want to be battling for the top positions. That is the minimum objective, but we also know that we will have to work hard to achieve it.
“There are a lot of different kinds of stages which makes maintaining a good rhythm quite challenging – you really need to be on the case with that and not get left behind early on. There can also be a lot of stray rocks on the roadside and parts of the route are very technical and narrow. It’s one of those events – like Portugal – where there really is no room for error.”