Mikko Hirvonen

Finland (FIN)

CAREER PROFILE

1998: Started rallying with Opel Kadett GSi

2000: Drives Opel

2001: Drives Opel

2002: Drives VW, Subaru, Citroen, Ford and Renault, Finished 21st in Rally Finland with Renault on his WRC debut, Finnish Champion

2003: Contract with Ford, 6th in Cyprus

2004: Contract with Subaru, 4th in Argentina & Australia, 7th WRC for Drivers

2005: Drives private Ford, 3rd in Spain, 10th WRC for Drivers

2006: Contract with Ford, 1st WRC win in Autralia, 3rd WRC for Drivers

 

 

 

 

 

Date of Birth:
31.7.1980 at Kannonkoski

Marital status: 
Lives with Karoliina, one son

Hobbies: badminton, football, building old cars

World Drivers' Champion:
Not yet

Entries of WRC Events

Mikko Hirvonen grew in a family of rally enthusiasm and he has always been fascinated by all sports that involved speed and a motor. He was often at the edge of the roads to see the Finnish national rallies and he began his motorsport career in autocross in 1995 at the age of just 15. He developed his skills on the rallycross tracks and during the winter on the ice tracks. 

At the age of 18 in 1998 he made his first rally car purchase, a two-litre Group N Opel Kadett GSi 16V. With his cousin navigating, he entered his first rally and despite going off the road twice, incurring penalties and damaging his gearbox, he crossed the finish line. Over the next two years his rally activities became a true family affair, with his cousin and sister sharing the co-driver's seat and the remaining family members helping with the running of the car. In 2000 Hirvonen felt he was ready to take on a new challenge – the first year of the Finnish Junior Rally Championship. Open to Group N front wheel drive cars, the old Kadett was replaced with the Opel Astra and he placed seventh in the series.   

The following year 2001 was a breakthrough for Mikko on the Finnish national level. The Astra was totally rebuild and he faced his first full year with the prospect of using pacenotes for the first time and enlisted the help of good friend Sirpa Jokinen, whose husband is one of Finland's most experienced co-drivers at national level. The invaluable experience that Jokinen bought to the partnership saw Hirvonen’s true talent show through, and he led the championship until the very last day of the last round when he hit a rock, relegating him to second in the series. During the season he had a tight fight with Kosti Katajamäki, who took the title. After the season one manager noticed his potential. It was a start of co-operation with Promoracing. Starting from season 2001 Timo Jouhki has helped to co-ordinate his career. Jouhki has been the key supporter behind Juha Kankkunen, Tommi Makinen, Harri Rovanpera and Toni Gardemeister. 

In 2002 Hirvonen competed in the Finnish Championship series partnered by Miikka Anttila and took the F2 title in a VW Golf Mk IV Kit Car. The pair also competed in some Italian asphalt rallies in a Citoen Saxo. He also contested part of the Italian Subaru Cup partnered by Jarmo Lehtinen, as well as a round of the French Championship in a Ford Puma. In Rally Finland he made his WRC debut driving a front-wheel-drive Renault Clio Super 1600. Already in his third ever WRC event in Great Britain he was behind the wheel of a Subaru Impreza WRC and he was setting comparable times with many of the manufacturers' team drivers before a mechanical problem saw him retire on the first day. He was invited to test works Ford Focus and that was enough to convince Ford team boss Malcolm Wilson to sign with the young Finn a optional five-year deal. In 2003 he drove on all fourteen rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship and scored his first ever WRC points in Cyprus taking sixth place. 

For the season 2004 it seemed that he will drive some events with a privately entered Ford, but the Christmas 2003 came early for him. Subaru signed 23-year-old Hirvonen to partner World Champion Petter Solberg in the 2004 World Rally Championship. The young Finn replaced Richard Burns, who was recovering from a brain tumour and was not able to drive anymore. He contested all WRC rounds with a best result of fourth in Argentina and Australia. His hopes of remaining with 2004 employer fade, when Subaru signed Chris Atkinson and Stephane Sarrazin. The reason to drop Hirvonen was not Mikko’s driving, it was his personality that was not tough enough for Subaru. It was said to be a learning year, but in the team like Subaru it was not possible. 

During the year 2005 Hirvonen tackled six WRC events, the majority in a privately-entered, works-specification Ford Focus RS WRC03 owned by Jari Viita and run by the M-Sport customer program. In Rally Italia Sardinia the surprise of the whole rally was the performance of Hirvonen, who took full advantage of improved road conditions further down the start order to claim third place after leg one. He was forced to retire, but in Greece he finished fifth after leading the event on the opening day. His efforts earned a call-up to Ford's official team for the Rally Finland, in which he finished again fifth. In Japan he was driving a one-off appearance for Skoda's works team and showed great speed, but accident ended the event. Then he took a superb third place on the all-asphalt Rally Catalunya and put himself in line for a top drive. Remarkably his performances were achieved in a car that was two years older than those of his rivals and against manufacturer-entered drivers. 

For the season 2006 Hirvonen signed a three-year contract with Ford World Rally Team to drive the all-new Focus RS WRC06. It will be his second stint with Ford in the WRC and he will drive alongside fellow Finn and double world champion Marcus Gronholm. The start of the season was not easy. He suffered with the technical issues with a brand new car and in Mexico he was really fighting with Loeb and Solberg lying on the second place before the accident ended his rally. In Sardinia he scored the best result of his career by finishing second. In Greece he placed third and in Finland achieved one of his childhood dream when he stood on the podium in Jyvaskyla. He took the podium places also in the following events in Japan, Cyprus and Turkey and secured very important Manufacturer´s points for Ford. In Australia he recorded his first ever World Rally Championship win. Hirvonen showed great maturity, having to cope with the constant pressure of Petter Solberg. The Subaru driver was never too far behind but Hirvonen controlled the race and never made a mistake. He placed third in the series.

The secret behind Mikko´s success is his reliability. A great show of good nerves is that many tight battles for a win have turned to his favour during the last few special stages. His technical knowledge is an irreplaceable asset while testing and developing the car. He is still very early stages of his career, but the signs are engouraging indeed. At the age of 25, he had completed two full seasons and once also lost his driver seat. Now again everything is possible for him, but he has had something a stop-start career in the WRC. 

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