Unfortunately, Mikko Hirvonen became one of numerous drivers to fall foul of the difficult conditions and was forced to make an untimely exit on SS2.
The fifth round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) has always demanded precision driving and near-perfect concentration – a feature which makes it one of the most daunting events of the year.
As the action reconvened in the Punilla Valley north of Carlos Villa Paz, this year’s outing proved to be no exception. There may have only been four stages to contend with, but the technical nature of ‘Santa Catalina / La Pampa’ combined with the mammoth 51.88 kilometres of ‘Ascochinga / Agua de Oro’ meant that merely making it through the day was an accomplishment in itself.
Unfortunately, there was less good fortune for Hirvonen as the Finn made an uncharacteristic mistake seven kilometres into the first pass of ‘Santa Catalina / La Pampa’ (SS2).
Missing a corner, the popular M-Sport driver hit a concrete wall on the outside of a tight left-hand corner – damaging the front and rear right suspension of his Fiesta RS WRC and signalling an untimely end to what could have been another strong result.
Directly after the incident, Hirvonen commented that ‘mechanics can sometimes do miracles’, and the M-Sport team did not disappoint. Stripping the Fiesta down to its shell, the team even repaired a section of rollcage to ensure their man could be back in the fight tomorrow.
Mikko Hirvonen (19th) said:
“I made a mistake myself. I don’t think that I have ever missed a corner like that. There was a really short, flat-right and somehow I missed the whole corner. I thought it was flat-out, but obviously it was not. There was only a 30 metre straight after that into a very tight left-hander and I was just carrying way too much speed. There was no way I could stop for the corner. There was a concrete wall on the outside; we hit that and did a lot of damage to the car. A big mistake from my side.
“I need to say a huge thanks to the mechanics for the great job they did to repair the car. Thanks to them, we can definitely be back on the pace tomorrow. These things do happen so it’s not going to get me down and make me go any slower. We’ll go flat out, try to get back in the points, and see what we can do in the Power Stage.”
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Rally Argentina is certainly the toughest event in the championship at the moment and it’s been a long time since we have seen so many retirements on the first day. With that in mind, Elfyn [Evans] has done a very good job. He’s done exactly what the team asked for him, and it’s paying reward.