The Finns were locked in an intense battle for the final podium positions throughout the weekend. Ultimately however, their speed, experience and determination saw them over-shadow all who threatened to disrupt a near-perfect weekend.
In true Wales Rally GB style, the stages were treacherously slippery but Hirvonen controlled the situation brilliantly. Conserving his pace when necessary and pushing when comfortable, the Ford Fiesta RS WRC driver adopted an effective mix of speed and consistency – setting a string of competitive times including the fastest time through yesterday’s second pass of Clocaenog Main (SS15).
Their podium finish was the perfect way to say goodbye to the championship which has given them so much and the sport which they have given so much to themselves.
Having dedicated thirteen years to the WRC, Hirvonen has secured 15 wins, 69 podiums, and six FIA Champions’ trophies. Ironically however, Lehtinen has picked up one more FIA trophy than his driver – their result this weekend securing third place in the 2014 co-drivers’ standings.
Both men will be greatly missed, not just by the M-Sport family, but by the entire WRC community.
Mikko Hirvonen (2nd) said:
“I couldn’t really think of a better way to end my career. We had a great fight all through the weekend and to finish with the second place is absolutely fantastic.
“Today it was a bit emotional for sure. Before this morning I manage to be pretty on it and concentrate on the rally, but today it was a bit more difficult!
“I just feel really good about the whole weekend. I really couldn’t have asked for anything better and it was the perfect way to end this very special chapter of our lives.”
Elfyn Evans (5th) said:
“I want to wish Mikko [Hirvonen] all the best. I really couldn’t have wished for a better team mate this year. He and Jarmo [Lehtinen, co-driver] have been so willing to share their experience over the year and if I can achieve anything like his CV at the end of my career then I would be very proud indeed. It was great to see him end such an influential career with such a positive result and I know that the whole team will really miss him and Jarmo next year.”
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It is such a pleasure to see Mikko [Hirvonen] and Jarmo [Lehtinen] end their careers with such a positive result. It’s hard to put into words, but I can certainly say that they have made a lasting impression on the team. They are liked by everyone and will be dearly missed. All of us were immensely proud to see him take such a result away from what has been a very special weekend.