It seems official that Mikko Hirvonen is an ex-Ford WRC driver after Wednesday‘s announcement from Citroen that he will join championship rival Sebastian Loeb at the French outfit next year.
Hirvonen will replace Sebastien Ogier at Citroen, with Ogier expected to be confirmed at Ford in the coming days. The young Frenchman has made waves this year alongside Sebastien Loeb, with the pair often not seeing eye to eye; most notably after a row about team orders in Greece earlier this year.
“Initially contracted until December 2013, Citroen Racing has finally decided to finish their collaboration with Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia at the end of the 2011 season,” Citroen said in a statement. This has left Hirvonen with a two year contract, until 2013, in what is effectively a direct take-over for the Finn.
Having made appearances for Ford in 2003, later joining the team in 2006, the 31-year-old Finn has racked up a tally of 14 wins and 51 podiums with the squad, which included three runner-up spots in the drivers’ championship in the last four years.
“Seeing Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia leave strikes a particular emotional chord in the whole team.
“Citroen Racing trained them, first of all in the JWRC and then in the Citroen Junior Team and the Citroen Total World Rally Team.
“They had a very good season with five victories and third place in the Drivers’ World Championship, and they made a productive contribution to the conquest of the manufacturers’ title alongside Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena who have claimed their eighth consecutive world crown, a unique achievement in motorsport,” said Citroen team principal Olivier Quesnel.
Hirvonen has been the only real contender to Loeb’s long lasting grip on the drivers’ championship in recent years – leaving an exciting prospect for next year when the two battle it out in identical machinery.
“Now, we’re very happy to welcome Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen. They’ve been our toughest rivals over the last four seasons and we’re really looking forward to our future collaboration. Mikko is a talented driver and his consistency will be a big help in our fight to retain the manufacturers’ title.”