Sharing a service park tent with a double world champion generally is a daunting prospect for any younger driver climbing the World Rally Championship ranks. However four-time WRC runner-up Mikko Hirvonen believes the no nonsense recommendation gleaned from his team-mate at Ford between 2006 and 2007, Marcus Gronholm, proved to be among the many greatest influences on his rally profession.
At reverse ends of their respective careers, rising star Hirvonen joined 2000 and 2002 champion Gronholm to create an all-new and all-Finnish line-up on the manufacturing unit Ford squad, which had run Toni Gardemeister and Roman Kresta in 2005.
On the comparatively tender age of 26, Hirvonen was elevated to the coveted seat following a 2005 season largely on the sidelines, though he’d scored a primary podium in a privately entered two-year-old Ford in Catalunya, after chopping his enamel as Petter Solberg’s team-mate on the manufacturing unit Subaru workforce in 2004.
It was a marketing campaign that arrived in considerably uncommon circumstances, Hirvonen put in to switch the already-signed Richard Burns when the 2001 world champion contracted the mind tumour that he would sadly succumb to a yr later. Hirvonen’s greatest finishes had been a pair of fourths in Argentina and Australia.
After ending as the most effective works Ford, fifth, in a one-off look in Finland, and a solitary outing for Skoda in Japan that resulted in retirement, Hirvonen joined Gronholm for 2006 because the junior accomplice within the workforce. However he grew in confidence alongside the previous Peugeot ace to finish their two-year spell with 4 wins and an additional 14 podium finishes. Within the remaining 10 rallies of 2006, Hirvonen was solely off the rostrum twice and scored his breakthrough maiden triumph in Australia to cement third within the standings – a feat he repeated in 2007, with wins in Norway, Japan and Wales.
It was a interval that marked Hirvonen out as a real WRC title contender, and the motive force to select up the Finnish rally baton from Gronholm. In 2009, he got here as shut as anyone to ending Sebastien Loeb’s run of dominance, ending only one level in arrears of the Citroen tour de drive.
Reflecting on his 163-rally WRC profession, headlined by 15 wins, Hirvonen picks Gronholm as his favorite team-mate from amongst a gifted bunch that features Solberg, Jari-Matti Latvala, Robert Kubica and nine-time champion Loeb when he spent the 2012 and 2013 campaigns at Citroen.
“I used to be nonetheless younger once I joined with [Gronholm],” Hirvonen tells Autosport. “He was a bit like Kalle [Rovanpera] at this time in some races when he was combating with Sebastien Loeb, he was one way or the other capable of make unimaginable occasions.
Hirvonen (along with co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen after profitable the 2007 Rally Japan) grew to become a longtime frontrunner with information gleaned from Gronholm
Picture by: McKlein / Motorsport Pictures
“With Marcus, I discovered so much from him and he was actually serving to and telling me issues. He was not shy sharing his information or secrets and techniques, I actually loved it.”
Not all drivers are keen to open up when youthful upstarts are snapping at their heels, however Hirvonen says he wasn’t shocked that his compatriot elected to disclose precious data that helped him to be Loeb’s nearest challenger in 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012.
“I used to be not likely shocked,” he says. “I used to be actually younger and was making my approach via, and he had received world championships already, so I don’t assume he was threatened by me – that I’ll begin to win rallies and take his possibilities of the title away. It was simple for him to inform me issues and assist any approach he might.”
Wanting again at that interval in his profession, Hirvonen believes he can credit score a few of his personal success to the recommendation he obtained from Gronholm. One philosophy notably sticks in his thoughts.
“In some methods [I can credit a lot of my success to him],” Hirvonen says. “I began to assume so much about automotive set-ups and lots of issues about rallying. With Marcus, one factor he was capable of present me was on the finish of the day you simply have to have the ability to – in his phrases – ‘go like f***’.
“That you must be assured. It doesn’t matter what you set in your automotive, or the way you set it up. If you happen to really feel completely happy, you are feeling assured, then that’s it. Simply hold it easy and go flat-out.
“That in a approach helped me, as I realised you don’t have to search out all the ultimate clicks or damper settings or no matter. If you happen to mentally really feel like that is it, that’s all you want.”
Hirvonen hung up his WRC helmet on the finish of 2014, however remains to be concerned within the championship at this time as a part of Rovanpera’s gravel crew at Toyota, whereas additionally appearing as a driver coach for the marque’s WRC Problem Programme – an initiative that goals to unearth and information aspiring Japanese drivers into the WRC.
PLUS: The previous WRC star taking part in the unsung hero position for Rovanpera
After breaking his duck on Rally Australia in 2006, Hirvonen completed runner-up to Loeb within the championship on 4 events
Picture by: McKlein / Motorsport Pictures
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