Mikko Hirvonen – A champion in any other era

Mikko Hirvonen celebrates his first victory at the last Rally Australia held in Perth in 2006
Mikko Hirvonen celebrates his first victory at the last Rally Australia held in Perth in 2006

Mikko Hirvonen has announced his retirement from the World Rally Championship after a long and successful career that has spanned Ford, Citroen, Subaru and a one-off appearance with Skoda.

His career had to be at the same time as Seb Loeb.  A time of utter dominance of one driver.  As a result, Hirvonen never won the Championship that he may have won in a different era.  He finished runner up four times, third a further two times.  He would take 19 wins, all bar one with the M-Sport Ford squad, the other with Citroen.

Hirvonen came into a factory drive at a young age, having won the under 2000cc Finnish Group A Championship in 2002 and in 2003 was in a Ford WRC.  A tough debut season saw him score just once in Cyprus but it was enough to grab a Subaru factory drive.  He was consistent if unspectacular for the Japanese squad and when he was let go at the end of the season, it appeared his world career was done.

A handful of private drives saved his career – particularly a third place in Spain.  Ford took him back for 2006 and put him beside twice Champion Marcus Gronholm.  It was here he started to shine.  He found his feet in Italy in round 7, taking 2nd.  A tough year then turned into a great year, scoring another seven podiums including his first win in Australia.  Staying with Ford for 2007, he took three wins and was part of M-Sport’s two constructors titles.  In 2008, Grondholm retired and Hirvonen was thrust into the team leadership role.

WRC started to struggle and the best thing about the sport was the Hirvonen vs Loeb battle. He had a run of four wins in 2009 and in a year where he took four wins, five seconds, two thirds and a DNF, he still couldn’t beat Loeb – and when that happens you know that it isn’t any old sort of rally battle – you are up against the best – and in this case, Hirvonen showed himself to be a star.

2010 was a tough year but he bounced back in 2011 to take second again.  In 2012 he moved to Citroen, and even with a Championship runner up he never really looked at home like he did at Ford.  So in 2014 he returned for his swansong.  A tough year for the now underfunded M-Sport outfit but still a couple of podiums came his way.

He was always bubbly for a Finn, good for a chat.  He was spectacular in the car, perhaps more so than the metronomic Loeb.  A man that the sport will miss.  His co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen joined Mikko in 2003 and stuck with him ever since.  They worked so well together and made each other stars.  Lehtinen worked with other Finnish drivers before Mikko and was in Toni Gardimeister’s gravel crew.

Determination kept them in the WRC and perhaps circumstance kept them from winning the Championship.  They are however, amongst the best of their time.  With Loeb, Petter Solberg and now Hirvonen gone from the WRC, the group that came in on the back of Sainz, McRae and Makkinen have now, themselves gone.  Rallying is now in the hands of the new generation of Theirry Neuville, Seb Ogier and Kris Meeke.

Mikko was part of the group that held rally together during a bad time for the sport.  He rallied hard and made it worth watching.

Thank-you Mikko and Jarmo and best of luck with the next chapters of your lives.


There have been so many great rallies, so many great fights! I can honestly say that I loved them all. I really can’t choose just one, but I can say that some were particularly significant. Our first win in the World Rally Championship at Rally Australia in 2006 was a very special moment. Our win at Wales Rally GB in 2007 was also very special. I remember the podium that I shared with Marcus (Gronholm) and Seb (Loeb). Chronologically, the last of my top three but the first in my heart was the win at Rally Finland, on home soil and with my family and friends. That’s a unique memory.


Starts: 162

Wins: 15

Runner-up: 28

Podium finishes: 68

Number of stage wins: 259

Points scored: 1,192c

“Privilege”, because it has been a privilege to work with Jarmo. None of this would have happened without him. We met for the first time at Helsinki airport in 2001, before flying to Italy where we were meant to be competing in our first rally together. It was the beginning of a great friendship. In these thirteen years, full of laughter, adventures, wins, losses and passion, we have experienced everything together. And I know that it’s not over yet! We’ll share many more experiences, because there are still a few great pages to be written in our notebook!

By Sam Tickell,  November 2014

RacerViews was established in 2011 and with the aim of delivering a new web experience to motorsport fans. We bring exclusive interviews and photos from motorsports finest drivers of yesterday, today and tomorrow. Our team has over 30 years of experience in the motorsport field. With a heavy presence on Facebook,Twitter and iTunes where we have over 3000 followers, our mission to bring exclusive content is in safe hands. Additionally we have over 1 million views on our G+ page. We have partnered with motorsport teams like Stig Richards Motorsport, One of a Kind MotorsportDark Horse Racing and MRT Performance in order to give you the best exclusive motorsport coverage.

We are always looking for new people to join our team. If you are a motorsports photographer or journalist looking for additional exposure or a great place to learn your trade, contact us