Ford driver Mikko Hirvonen has claimed his third consecutive World Rally Championship victory and his first win on home soil, equipped with Pirelli Scorpion tyres. Rally Finland, which is also known as the 'Finnish Grand Prix' is the fastest and most spectacular event of the season,
putting huge demands on the crews, cars and tyres.
The Rally Finland is characterised by flat-out gravel roads and huge crests that launch the cars into the air. Although the weather was largely warm, some overnight rain meant that the road conditions were mixed, making Finland a true challenge for the soft-compound Pirelli Scorpion rubber. These tyres will be used once more for the season-closing Rally Great Britain at the end of the year.
Just as was the case last year, Rally Finland witnessed an epic duel between the Ford of Mikko Hirvonen and the Citroen of five-time World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb
, both on Pirelli Scorpion tyres. However, this time it was the Ford driver who triumphed after their three-day long battle, winning 10 stages en route to his first Rally Finland victory. Hirvonen now enjoys a three-point lead over Loeb in the drivers' championship rankings, while Citroen has a 14-point advantage over Ford, with just three rallies remaining.
Despite the rapid roads and varying weather conditions, which peaked at 33 degrees, the soft-compound Pirelli Scorpion gravel tyres stood up extremely well to the challenge. None of the leading runners reported any major problems with punctures, in spite of some stones that emerged through the ruts during the second passage over the stages.
"Everything has worked really well, the notes, the car and the tyres," said Hirvonen at the finish in Jyvaskyla. "The rally went exactly as planned. It was a really close battle and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
This is a rally that I have dreamed about winning since I was a child, so to finally achieve it is fantastic!"
The Junior World Rally Championship, which also uses Pirelli tyres, was decided in Finland after Czech driver Martin Prokop took a dominant victory at the wheel of his Citroen C2 S1600. The result means that Prokop can now not be beaten to the Junior title on the final round in Spain. "I could maybe have sealed it just by taking two reasonable results here and in Spain," said Prokop. "But instead I tried to push my hardest here - and so we won the title!"
Pirelli's Rally Manager Mario Isola commented: "We have been very pleased by the performance of our tyres on what is certainly one of the toughest events of the year. The sustained high speeds and big jumps mean that our tyres are constantly subjected to extreme forces: especially the sidewalls that have to bear the load when the cars land. Despite these very challenging conditions, we are pleased to report that none of the leading runners experienced any problems directly related to the tyres at all. Even in cases where the tyre was knocked off the rim due to an impact with a rock, the tyre stayed up and enabled drivers to complete the stage with minimal damage. Now we look forward to the next rally, in Australia, which will be a brand new event for us and no doubt present a completely different type of challenge."