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M-SPORT WORLD RALLY TEAM: LOTOS RALLY POLAND WRC – REVIEW

WRC A FULL 2014

MIKKO MAKES THE MOST OF POLAND

2012 Rally Mexico

29 June 2014

M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mikko Hirvonen has made the most of a challenging Rally Poland – bringing his Ford Fiesta RS WRC home in fourth place. Elfyn Evans finished under Rally 2 regulations, but the Welshman remains in a positive mood having made another progressive step in his development.

M-Sport’s resident Finn had been battling with his pacenotes throughout the weekend. Hindered by notes a scale too slow for the fast-paced stages, Hirvonen refused to give up the fight and adapted to the situation in admirable fashion.

Focused on the job in hand, he and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen put all of their skill and experience to good use. When others fell victim to the tricky conditions, the Finns upped their pace and quickly found themselves back where they belonged – battling for a podium position during the rally’s final phase.

With just 10 seconds separating the Fiesta driver from a top-three finish, Hirvonen was not going to give up without a fight. Working long into the night, he and Lehtinen studied all of their onboard videos; perfecting their pacenotes at every opportunity.

Despite their best efforts, the pairing had to settle for fourth place, albeit with a highly respectable points haul considering their difficult weekend.

In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, a progressive weekend was cruelly cut short for Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt.
The pairing were one of numerous crews to clip an unsighted rock towards the end of SS14 – damaging the lower front suspension link and forcing the Brits to make an ultimely exit from the third day of competition.

Despite his misfortune, Evans can take many positives from this weekend’s event. Setting some highly impressive split times to rival the rally leaders, M-Sport’s protégé has proved that he has the pace and remains upbeat with the prospect of more familiar events to come.

Next in his development, the Welshman will work towards sustaining his speed over the course of an entire stage distance. Having gained some vital experience on what was the fastest competition of his career, the youngster heads to Rally Finland’s famously high-speed route with his confidence high.

Mikko Hirvonen (4th) said:

“It’s been a really difficult weekend. It all went wrong on the recce and we had to play catch up from there. That’s the way it was and we just had to deal with it as best we could.

“My pace wasn’t as good as it should have been, but I stayed out of trouble and just tried to do my best. Many people had problems this weekend and we were able to capitalise on that and score some good points.”

Elfyn Evans (35th) said:

“I think it’s fair to say that it was a difficult start for us. We were able to build the pace as the weekend went on, but it took me a little longer than I would have liked to adapt. Once we started to get used to the speed, I think the times were quite promising.

“Just as we were getting to the point where we felt comfortable to up our game and push a bit more, we hit the rock which caught out so many crews on SS14. It was a shame for sure, but that’s just the way it is sometimes and you have to put it down to experience.

“It was good to get back out today – to get some more mileage and perfect the notes for the future. It wasn’t a fantastic run being first on the road, but on the whole it has been a very productive weekend.

“It’s all good practice ahead of Rally Finland. We’ve got a bit of a break now but with a good test before the rally I’m sure we’ll be looking for a strong result.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:

“It’s been a difficult weekend for Mikko [Hirvonen] and rare for him to make a mistake on recce. He coped well with the situation and refused to give up the fight. For that, he has been rewarded with a solid points finish.

“Elfyn [Evans] was unfortunate yesterday, but his progression behind the wheel has been very impressive. After a somewhat shaky start, he found a good rhythm and his splits have been good. These fast stages will see him well placed as we head to Rally Finland and a series of events on which he has more experience.”
ADDITIONAL
M-SPORT DRIVERS
M-Sport’s range of Ford Fiesta rally cars continues to dominate the WRC 2 category. The Blue Oval secured another clean sweep of the podium with Ott Tänak and Jari Ketomaa delivering a stunning drive to first and second places respectively. Their performance put the Ford Fiesta R5 in a class of its own with 20 of a possible 22 stage wins.

Yazeed Al-Rajhi brought his Ford Fiesta RRC home in third; the Fiesta RRC of Bernardo Sousa claimed the remaining two stages to make it a full house of fastest times for M-Sport.

There were also some highly impressive performances from M-Sport’s two-wheel-drive competitors. The Ford Fiesta R2 crews showcased the speed and strength of M-Sport’s first global rally car – their pace comparing favourably to that of the other two-wheel-drive participants.

M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:

“It’s been another great event for us in the WRC 2 category with yet another clean sweep of the podium. Ott [Tanak] and Jari [Ketomaa] put the [Ford] Fiesta R5 in a class of its own.

“Yazeed’s [Al Rajhi] third place in the [Ford Fiesta] RRC and a strong performance from Martin Kangur in the [Ford Fiesta] S2000 goes to prove that our range of Fiestas provide a highly competitive and reliable package.”

KUBICA TAKES THE POSITIVES FROM POLAND

2012 Rally Mexico

Rally Poland was always going to be a special event for RK M-Sport World Rally Team’s Robert Kubica, but luck was not on the Pole’s side this weekend. The Formula One race winner may have finished outside of the points, but his finishing position did not reflect his speed and he was encouraged by another strong performance on gravel.

The rally started well with a third fastest time over the opening speed test, but a roll on SS2 relegated him down the order. With the support of the Polish fans, Robert forfeited just 25 seconds and lost none of his confidence – starting the second day as he meant to go on with another top-three time through the first pass of Wieliczki (SS4).

Unfortunately, it was not to be and Saturday’s action became a story of misfortune. Carrying one spare tyre, the Pole suffered two punctures through the morning loop and it was touch and go whether he would make it through the final stage (SS15). Thanks to the determination of the Fiesta driver and the strength of Michelin’s LATITUDE Cross tyre, he made it through the stage and back to base with the delaminated tyre.
But his hard work was undone on SS17 when an unsighted rock damaged the suspension of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC. The impact also started a small fire as a broken damper dripped oil onto the brake disc and Robert was forced to accept Rally 2 regulations for the final day.

Embarking on the final day of competition, his misfortune continued. When the team discovered an issue with the alternator he was late out of service and had to accept an additional two minute and 20 second time penalty.

Despite his troubles, Robert can take a number of positives from this weekend. He showed good speed and has gained some vital knowledge when it comes to competing on high-speed gravel.
This weekend’s experience sees the 29-year-old well placed to make further improvements when the FIA World Rally Championship returns to the sport’s spiritual home at next month’s Rally Finland.

Robert Kubica (20th) said:

“It hasn’t been the luckiest of rallies for us, but there are still some positives to take away from the weekend. Other than our small mistake I think we have been driving well and it was great to see so many fans out on the stages. We have to look on the positive side and there are many positives to take from this event.

“It puts us in a good position ahead of the next event. Finland is a very particular event and I think after this rally the speed of the stages will not come as such a big surprise. Of course the character is very different with a lot more corners over crests, but the speed range is quite similar.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:

“It’s been another tricky event for Robert [Kubica], but he has shown good speed and when everything is going right he seems to be enjoying the fast gravel stages. Hopefully this weekend will see him better prepared for Finland.”

ENDS

DRIVER STATISTICS
AFTER RALLY POLAND
OVERALL RESULTS

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