M-Sport World Rally Team’s Ford Fiesta RS WRCs will be sporting a new-look next week when Mikko and Jarmo power through the high-speed forests of the 64th Neste Oil Rally Finland. As rallying’s spiritual home, there is perhaps no batter backdrop on which to debut the Fiesta’s long-awaited facelift and the Finns will be looking to celebrate the reveal with a similarly celebratory performance.
Based on the road-going Ford Fiesta ST – Ford’s fastest-ever production Fiesta which combines contemporary style with the Blue Oval’s state-of-the-art EcoBoost technology – the new-look world rally car highlights the valued technical support which M-Sport continues to receive from the Ford Motor Company; and what better way to commemorate that support than with a successful outing on one of the FIA World Rally Championship’s (WRC) most anticipated and prestigious events?
Success on the fast-paced stages will be hard-fought. The route is blisteringly quick and precision driving and pacenote delivery is essential.
The high-speed straights are interspersed with series of jumps and a good set-up with a car that handles well can be a driver’s most treasured possession. Blind crests conceal tricky bends and split second decisions can make all the difference as crews look to position their cars correctly before take-off and landing.
The competitors must also get to grips with Michelin’s new compound – the LTX Force which will make its first competitive appearance next week.
This is an event which truly favours the brave, but make a mistake in Finland and the fast-paced gravel tracks will make you work harder than ever to win back the time.
The complex nature of this classic event means that every driver dreams of adding a Finland victory to their repertoire; something Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen achieved with Ford and M-Sport in 2009.
The team’s resident Finns have an unrivalled understanding of their home event, Hirvonen contesting the fixture on 12 previous occasions and Lehtinen and impressive 16. Based in Hirvonen’s hometown of Jyväskylä, the M-Sport man will have local support on his side and he’ll be looking to translate that into a positive result in pursuit of the top positions.
“I am really looking forward to Rally Finland – every year it is the highlight of the season for me. We’ll also have the new facelift on the competition cars for the first time next week which is very exciting. The car looks great and I’m sure the fans will agree when they see it flying through the forests.
“It’s fair to say that Finland used to be quite a specialised event but nowadays it provides more of a level playing field. There are so many onboard videos around that the Finns don’t necessarily have the advantage they used to. But we Finns are very proud of this event – of its history and its heritage – and we all want to see a Finnish driver on the top step of the podium again.
“I would love to be that Finn, but we know that this will be a close-fought rally with a lot of very tough competition. I’d like to go for the win, but if I come away with a podium I would still be very happy with the result.
“If we have a perfect rally then there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be pushing for the victory, but you have to be on the pace from the very first corner. The key is confidence. The stages are so fast and technical with lots of hidden corners over crests and you need to be fully committed throughout the entire weekend.”