M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen were back on form at this weekend’s Vodafone Rally de Portugal. Fighting for the lead, the pairing finished in a strong second place – their best performance of the season to date.
Straight on the pace, Hirvonen took an early lead with an inspired tyre choice through the first full day of competition. Despite falling victim to a revived Sebastien Ogier, the Finn looked at one behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Finding himself outside of the top-three on only four of the 15 speed tests, the Finn produced a highly competitive and consistent performance.
Tyre choice was a tricky call for the final day. Having selected the prime option for each of the earlier legs, Hirvonen was at a disadvantage for the final loop with just a selection of well-worn soft compounds in his arsenal. Opting for a configuration of worn-soft and fresh-hard tyres, Michelin’s resilient rubber held up to the challenge and the Finn was even able to post a second fastest time through S. Brás de Alportel (SS15).
Growing in confidence with each new kilometre, the M-Sport driver commented on how natural he felt behind the wheel of his reacquainted charge. Able to fight risk-free at the head of the field, this weekend’s result provides the perfect platform for a resurgent Hirvonen to make his mark on the championship.
Mikko (2nd) said:
“I’m really happy with this result. We came here wanting a good, clean rally and that is what we have done. The car has been absolutely perfect – and really competitive – all weekend so a big thanks to the boys for the top job they’ve done.
“We knew that we had the pace, it was just a case of bringing everything together and I think that we did that this weekend. We’ll keep developing and learning, so hopefully we can fight even harder in the coming rallies.
“We’ve been another step closer this weekend, and it’s really good for the whole team. I’m sure this result will boost everyone and that we can continue to challenge at the head of the field.”