M-Sport returns to Coates Hire Rally Australia with a significant milestone. The tenth round of the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) marks M-Sport’s 250th WRC event; and what better place to celebrate than at one of the team’s most favoured hunting grounds.
Nestled on the subcontinent’s Gold Coast, the Australian fixture has played host to a number of M-Sport success stories and provides another technical challenge for the crews.
Those looking to be in the running for the top positions must quickly get back up to speed on gravel. Following the asphalt roads of Rallye Deutschland, the crews must reaffirm the art of gravel rallying – the nature of the road and the way the car handles through the loose terrain.
They must find the confidence to push through the fast, flowing roads and maintain a good rhythm as the route is interspersed with tighter, twistier sections. Finding the right balance between speed and caution is key – become over confident and too ambitious on the pre-event reconnaissance and you’ll pay the price. The route traverses dense rain forest and the trees that line the stages pose an ever-present threat – awaiting the smallest of mistakes.
The challenge has proved fruitful for M-Sport in the past – the Cumbrian firm securing victory on three separate occasions with Mikko Hirvonen. The Finn has an abundance of experience in Australia and can boast an impressive podium-finish rate of 67 per cent.
The event played host to the first WRC victory for Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen in 2006, and the pairing will be looking to be challenging at the head of the field once again next week. Gaining confidence, the Ford Fiesta RS WRC driver is just one point shy of fourth place in the championship standings and will be looking to claim that position with a strong result.
Mikko Hirvonen said:
“This rally has always been a good event for us. In 2006 we claimed our first [FIA World Rally Championship] win in Australia, so it will always hold a lot of amazing memories for me.
“We have occasionally been lucky, but the stages are fantastic to drive and some of them have a very similar character to those in Finland – it almost feels like being back at home sometimes!
“They’re [the stages] generally pretty fast, but there is a good mix of slower sections through the forests. It’s the nature of the gravel which is tricky here. It’s pretty loose so road position can be very important. If it rains, it’s unbelievably slippery, and if it’s dry, it can be really dusty. There’s a challenge no matter what the conditions, but more than anything it’s just flat-out enjoyment!
“We’ll definitely be looking towards the podium next week. There’s no reason why we can’t achieve that and I can’t wait to get out there and experience the stages again.”