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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

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Hirvonen steers new M-Sport Ford Fiesta car to debut victory

It was a touch of frost which brought joy to Cockermouth last week when Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen took the brand-new M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000 to a resounding win on its competitive debut in the snow of the Alpes-Maritimes.

The from start to finish on the Intercontinental Rally Championship (IRC) Monte Carlo Rally Mikko tamed the treacherous winter conditions on the famous mountain stages in the South of France, including the famous Col de Turini, to post an impressive margin of 1min 51.4 seconds ahead of the second placed Skoda Fabia of another Finn, Juho Hanninen.

Runners-up in the 2009 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), Hirvonen and Lehtinen brought all their experience and expertise to the 405 stage kilometres to win and boost their confidence for the start of the 2010 WRC in Sweden next month.

For those of us with a few rally miles under our belts and even more beer-induced fat bemoan the fact that the Monte was ever dropped from the WRC – it was always the exciting start to the season and we veterans remember the brave Mini drivers like Hopkirk and Makinen bringing the honours to the UK which really got up the nose of the French.

However, well done the IRC for rekindling the excitement of the Monte’s magic which was thankfully more like the Golden Era because there was snow to make it a real test for cars and drivers.

After the storming win, Malcolm Wilson said, “It’s a dream debut for our new Fiesta S2000. We led from the first stage to the last without a single problem which is hugely encouraging for a new car.”

Currently a two-horse race, the increasingly esoteric WRC is becoming less and less attractive and more and more expensive, so cars like the much more affordable Fiesta S2000 are bound to be more attractive to crews.

What is more, it is a speculative thought that the less expensive IRC may even become the series to compete in and bring back more manufactures, that or the WRC has to change.

A hint of the future can be seen in the IRC Monte results as Ford, Skoda and Peugeot had cars in the top eight, one of which was the Fabia of the UK’s Guy Wilks and Phil Pugh who at one time were in second place and giving Hirvonen a run for his money but a spin pushed Guy down the order.

F1 star Kubica swapped disciplines and competed on the Monte in a rapid Renault Clio 3 but his bid for rally glory was cut short on the opening stage when Reggie’s best suffered engine problems.

Of local interest was the fact that Hirvonen’s tyres were Pirellis and we, of course, have a factory in Carlisle, so it was a double celebration for Cumbria!

The next major rally in the county will be the Malcolm Wilson Rally on March 6. The one-day event always attracts a great entry from some of the cream of club and national crews who love the classic forest rally stages of Hobcarton, Comb, Wythop, Grizedale and the sponsor’s own Greystoke forest.

The regs and entry forms are available at www.malcolmwilson.co.uk http://www.malcolmwilson.co.uk and as I certainly can’t remember when it didn’t have a full entry, if you want to experience some of the most technical and exciting stages in the UK then I suggest you log on and book a place now.

Cockermouth was devastated by the recent floods but the organisers want to support the recovery and will, as usual, have the start and finish in the centre of the town because the welcome it has given over many years has been second to none.

More details next week but make sure you support the rally, the area and the town!

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